Growing up, Scott Simon was shy. It was difficult for him to do anything in a public way, but on the plane to Israel at 21 years old, that all changed.  He just finished college and told himself he was going to say ‘yes’ to everything he deemed an opportunity. He hasn’t stopped since. 

“It was the best year of my entire life,” he said. “The ability to push through my comfort zone and put myself out there was a turning point for me. Being in Israel and being in the Jewish homeland and opening myself up ... was something that defined me from that point forward.”

His year of saying yes created a whole new life for him. It solidified his Jewishness and put his new-found energy into the Cleveland Jewish community upon his return. The personal growth he experienced since Israel along with his desire to better himself each day keeps him motivated, which he combines with his Jewish upbringing that taught him the importance of giving back.

“I believe that Jews don’t sit back and let things happen to us,” he said. “It is our birthright to strive and work and to make things better for our families, our communities and our world. I think it is in our cultural DNA as Jews to do that. I think it’s not even a thought, it’s literally in our DNA to do that and I don’t argue with DNA”

Being a son of Jewish parents and a father of Jewish children strengthens Simon’s identity as a Jew, which in turn keeps him involved in strengthening the Jewish community. 

“To me, I feel most at home and I feel I’m creating the most meaning to me when I’m involved in Jewish causes,” he said. “There is something so special about being involved in the Jewish community because it’s who I am.”

He credits his success to his ability of being a connector, he said, whether it’s connecting people to other people, to philanthropy or to a specific cause. It strengthens the community and creates an unending link between community members and organizations. 

“I think if I have been successful it’s been because I’ve been able to connect people to what is important in our community,” he said. “That means at the board level, at the solicitation level and that sense of connecting people to what’s important.” 

After inspiring himself to push his comfort zone, he’s helped others through his movement named Scare Your Soul which seeks to inspire people to engage in repeated small acts of courage and connect them to a like-minded community. 

He’s helped create change in people’s everyday lives but would like to help people change how they speak to each other. Being in a “polarized world,” Simon said there is bias in everyday conversations and would like to help individuals communicate on a people-to-people level.

– Alyssa Schmitt

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