Joshua Kramer has been volunteering since high school, as Jewish communal participation has always been a big part of who he is. In high school, he found himself spending time with his synagogue’s youth group, and in college, it was Hillel and various young professional groups.
After college, Kramer traveled to Afghanistan to teach deployed troops and help them receive higher education while serving and in his spare time, he led the Jewish community of Kandahar Airfield NATO base. Soon after he returned to Cleveland, he moved into the Moishe House of Cleveland as a volunteer-resident.
“I lived there for two years, with my co-residents Mandy Kwait and Benjamin Sattin,” he said. “We hosted six or more events a month for our peers that were social and religious programs. It was truly a whirlwind of activities.”
Kramer said his experience at the Moishe House exposed him to volunteer opportunities within the community, like the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s Young Leadership Division board and the Community Relations Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and Kol Israel Foundation’s programming.
“I have two grandparents that survived the Holocaust,” he said. “I felt very compelled to serve and it was very rewarding for me to be involved with the young professionals programming for my peers and myself as well. It’s such a vibrant community here for people like me. I felt very happy to do that work and, in turn, felt compelled to help create that community. The CRC work is all about building bridges between the Jewish community and non-Jewish community in Northeast Ohio.”
As time passed, Kramer found himself volunteering with other young professional groups, as he feels compelled to support the community that has supported him. But as for what motivates him, he said that it’s pretty simple – he would feel guilty if he didn’t volunteer.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s what I like to do. Volunteering makes Cleveland a better place to live, and then it makes the Jewish and overall communities richer. But, it’s a lot of guilt. I originally felt compelled out of guilt to give back. If I didn’t give back after receiving so much from this community, I would feel bad. It’s only right.”
Kramer said he would like to motivate others to get involved in the Jewish Cleveland and Greater Cleveland communities, as so many people benefit from the services and organizations. If he could say one thing to someone considering volunteering, he’d tell them that to volunteer is to enrich one’s own life.
“I would just tell them it’s a rewarding, great way to meet new people and to improve life in Cleveland,” he said.
Kramer said he hopes to continue to feel pride and satisfaction in the organizations he is involved with and maybe add new projects.
“I hope to accomplish continued satisfaction in these parts of the community that I serve,” he said. “I’m pretty organization-ed out right now, but I hope to just continue to evolve personally and as a volunteer as the years go on.”
– Becky Raspe