Michele Weiss has worked at the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland in Cleveland Heights for 20 years, but in her “spare time,” she’s also a city councilperson, runs a nonprofit organization and volunteers.
In her role as controller at Hebrew Academy, the largest Jewish day school in Ohio, Weiss handles day-to-day operations, the finances and heads the tuition committee.
Likening her position there to that of a COO, Weiss noted the academy is not where her commitment to the community ends.
Weiss said she enjoys being a member of University Heights City Council.
“I love being a part of it,” she said. “A lot of the Jewish community lives in University Heights. And just the Greater Cleveland community, I have a lot of involvement in also.”
She also runs a nonprofit called Amatz Initiative.
“It’s an educational organization for Jewish day schools to ensure that, when they graduate school, they’re living a God-centered life and it can perpetuate over to the next generation,” Weiss esaid.
Before starting the organization, she said the thought “our kids in Jewish day schools are graduating without a strong connection to God” had been in “the back of (her) head for awhile.”
“And we see this across the whole spectrum, from Reform all the way to Chasidic, it’s the same, and it’s because of society and the generation,” Weiss said. “There’s so many things thrown at these kids now that never were before, and it’s hard for them to kind of balance everything out.”
So Weiss set out to change that. Noting the organization is now in its third year, Weiss said it’s been very successful.
“We started out kind of small. We started with the girls’ schools. So there’s 150 girls schools in America,” Weiss said. “Our goal is to get every Jewish day school.”
The Amatz Initiative has 60 schools in its program.
The organization takes a three-pronged approach. First, bringing principals to Eretz Yisroel on a weeklong mission, Weiss said the Amatz Initiative’s goal is to enact change from the top down.
Noting they take 30 principals each summer, Weiss explained the trip gives these educators a chance to “disconnect to reconnect” and develop a network.
After the trip, the Amatz Initiative trains three teachers in each school on “how to give over that love of God to their kids,” and provides the schools with a stipend.
“So it’s a yearlong program,” Weiss said. “Then in the summer we have a retreat for the principals and for their staff.”
Weiss is also a commissioner for the Ohio Commission on Service and Volunteerism and is a presidential nominee for the community relations committee of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
“I also am on the board of Yachad, which is an organization for developmentally disabled adults and teens,” Weiss said. She became involved with Yachad many years ago “through NCSY, so that’s kind of been near and dear to my heart since I was a teenager.”
Reflecting on her community involvement, she said it falls into three categories.
At the Hebrew Academy, “I’m very fortunate to be a part of something in Cleveland that directly deals with the Jewish community.,” Weiss said. “And then city council, again, very fortunate because it’s the community at large, not just the Jewish community. The nonprofit is really the United States, which is kind of amazing that it just kind of fell into three buckets. I’m passionate about helping the community and being a servant leader. I think servant leadership is very important in the Jewish community and I hope just to be able to keep doing that.”
In 2018, Weiss was named University Heights public official of the year.