Michael Jacobson said he volunteers in the Jewish community for two reasons: he loves Israel and he loves Cleveland. As he finds himself in the center of both of these communities, he knows that it’s his duty to express that love by way of giving back.

“Between the two, there are people who give financial support to institutions and there are those who give both financial support and service within,” he said. “I fit in the second category. I’m not a major donor, but I do support the organizations. And when I do join a board, it’s because I want to be a working member of the board – not for the name recognition.”

As for how he got involved in organizations like Jewish National Fund, B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s community relations committee and Hospice of the Western Reserve, Jacobson finds inspiration in the Cleveland community and the friends he has made along the way.

“I attribute volunteering to Cleveland, and to the Jewish community here,” he said. “It’s such a wonderful, vibrant and welcoming community. And then in Israel, I contribute (my inspiration) to my late friend, Moshe Rivlin, who was the KKL/JNF World Chairman. He had a great influence in developing my love for the state of Israel and the Jewish people.” 

Jacobson said he doesn’t plan to stop volunteering within the community and would like to take on other endeavors. He grew up knowing it was right to give back and that need expands past the Jewish community as well.

“I want to continue to support both Israel and Cleveland,” he said. “And not just with Judaism, but all people. I believe very strongly that we need to be involved in our communities. I am involved today, because of the CRC, with the Latino and African-American communities.

“It’s rewarding to communicate with them and to create dialogues that can lead to friendships between communities in the future.”

As an example of that, Jacobson said one of the most rewarding parts of his volunteer and philanthropic career was an interfaith trip to Israel in July with 30 non-Jewish, non-profit civic leaders from Cleveland.

“The Thomas and Joanne Adler Mission to Israel was an example of these friendships,” he said. “The bonds that we developed on that trip are one of the biggest highlights to me.”

When asked what he’d say to someone looking to become involved in their community the same way he has, Jacobson said its quite simple.

“I would ask them to give their time, and of what they can give in monetary support, to stretch it a little bit,” he said. “Give back to the community. Cleveland has been wonderful to a lot of people, including my family and myself. It’s just a total mitzvah to give back. (The gift) doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Whatever it is, choose something that you believe in, so that you can buy into it and give it your 100 percent.”

– Becky Raspe

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