When Adam Jacobs returned to Cleveland at age 25, he needed to remake his social world.

After graduating from Syracuse University, he moved to New York City and co-founded an international financial marketing and communications firm. Having spent summers during college living in New York as well, it had become Adam’s new home.

When the stock market crashed in 2008, he looked around and decided Cleveland might have more opportunity for him than New York.

“A lot of the fun and the energy was gone,” he said.

An unforeseen benefit was the time he was able to spend with his mother, Debby Jacobs, in her final years of life. Jacobs credits his mother with instilling in him the values that he now holds dear in Judaism, particularly his outward focus toward others.

“It turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” he said of his decision to return to Cleveland. When he first returned, he was also traveling between Florida and New York.

“I was sort of bouncing around a lot,” he said. “It was an adjustment to get used to the slower pace of life.”

Even with his deep connections within Cleveland: Park Synagogue preschool, summers at Oakwood Day Camp and attending Beachwood schools -- as one of the many young professionals moving back from larger cities, Jacobs saw the need for opportunities to connect with other Jewish young professionals.

Working with Rabbi Rosette Barron Haim at The Temple-Tifereth Israel, he started a group called simply 2139. Its aim was to create a vibrant social environment for young Jewish professionals to make new friends and have fun. Successfully growing this group, and rolling it into JCLE was the beginning of Jacobs’ community involvement.

In addition to his work at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. as a financial adviser, Jacobs serves on several humanitarian boards in Cleveland, both Jewish in focus and nonsectarian. 

“If we don’t stand up for ourselves, no one will,” he said, referring to his involvement with Jewish causes. “If we don’t have a strong enough community and don’t emphasize the growth of the community and building ourselves up, it will just disappear.”

He frequently finds himself hosting fundraising events, which is not a role he would have sought out.

“Growing up, I was always more focused on the production,” Jacobs said. “I’m someone who’s more of a producer than actor. I’m not used to being in the spotlight. But throughout my life, I’ve had to go before the crowd. It’s always a little bit uncomfortable, and you go through with it and go on. In order to get the message across, sometimes you have to put yourself out there.”

Among his many volunteer roles, he is active with the Jewish Federation, both in Cleveland and at the national level, is a founding member of Montefiore’s associate board, has been involved with the Anti-Defamation League and with the Cleveland Hillel Foundation.

Jacobs also said he believes it’s important to serve the wider community.

“When you look at our neighbors, there are people that don’t have the same opportunities and support that we’re used to,” he said. “And when you look at their situations, it’s hard not to help.” 

In addition, he finds time to teach high-performance driver’s education, which is a love he developed even before he could drive. His father, Howard Jacobs, introduced him to the sport when he was a teenager. “I started actually instructing before I was driving,” he said. “It’s just another way of helping people.”

– Jane Kaufman

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