Rabbi Avrohom Adler’s move to Cleveland about 25 years ago was a turning point in his life.

Originally recruited to come to Northeast Ohio to help community members improve their Torah study habits, Adler watched as his focus shifted from his personal growth to that of others.

His selfless mentality brought him new opportunities within Cleveland’s Jewish community, including founding Gesher, a nonprofit tasked to improve the local Jewish community’s access to employment and education opportunities, and co-founding the Cleveland Chesed Center, a Cleveland Heights nonprofit working to provide Cleveland’s in-need Jewish households with food, clothing and household items.

“My rebbe always said that we’re here in this world, placed in different locations, for specific missions,” Adler said. “Not everyone knows what their mission in life is and what direction they should take, but sometimes it becomes evident as to what your purpose is.

“It gives meaning to my life that I’m able to help the community because it’s the mission of a person on an individual basis and on a communal level. It’s not just being a statistic, but rather helping the community move forward and improve its members’ lives.”

Adler’s dive into helping others locally started with his teaching career, where he taught sixth grade for 13 years at the former Mosdos Ohr Hatorah in Cleveland Heights, he said. While he enjoyed his years as a teacher, Adler wondered of the potential if he took his abilities outside the classroom.

This step resulted in the formation of Gesher in 2013, after Adler and community members sought to aid those experiencing financial plight. 

Shortly after Gesher’s establishment, a Jewish Federation of Cleveland population study showed many families with day school children and their surrounding communities were experiencing a food shortage problem. Adler, the Federation and community stakeholders came together to combat the problem with the Cleveland Chesed Center in 2016. He serves as executive director of the center.

“In my two main positions, it was to be able to make a difference to improve people’s lives,” Adler said. “The fact that I’m able to get up in the morning with a purpose, and with a direction of, ‘I’m here to help people in the community,’ it lifts me up. At the end of the day, I can look back and say that I helped 10 people, 20 people, hundreds of people, and that definitely makes a person feel good. But we’re not here necessarily in this world to feel good.”

To further make an impact on the local Jewish community, Adler also co-founded Naaleh, a nonprofit mental health referral service, where he’s a member of the board. He also co-founded Agudath Israel of Ohio, where he served as vice president and board member.

Most recently, Adler helped facilitate the building of the Cleveland Community Mikvah in University Heights. As its vice president, Adler stayed with the project since its start in 2015 to its completion in November.

“I was blessed to have this knack where I’m able to bring various people to the table – people from different groups and with different perspectives and opinions – and bring them together,” Adler said. “Sometimes I have to ruffle some people’s feathers. But, it’s more that we could get it done if I get involved, put my head to it and have people behind me – and, thank God, there’s a lot of people behind me.”

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