When Steve Rudolph was looking for ways to give back to his community, he knew he wasn’t simply trying to add another line to his resume. He wanted to find somewhere he could remain active in making a difference.
When he was introduced to the work of Milestones Autism Resources, Rudolph knew he had found a place – and a cause – to focus his efforts to give back.
“For me, I wasn’t going to pick something that wasn’t an active board just to get my name there,” Rudolph said. “Milestones … is a really great board. Every single person on there is just a wonderful person, with great leadership, they all want to do something and it touches my heart.”
Though Rudolph’s own child is not on the spectrum (he has a daughter who was Bat Mitzvah in Nov.), members of his extended family are and he understands how difficult it can be at times.
“Seeing the struggle is just heartbreaking,” he said. “Knowing that they make a difference, knowing that I can make a difference, that whatever my skills are, like fundraising, can make a difference.”
Though he often lends his fundraising talents to the causes he serves, he admits he doesn’t necessarily love fundraising. But he said he’s good at it and wants to use those skills to help, as he has with both Milestones and the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.
Rudolph started his career – and giving back – in Chicago, before relocating to Cleveland and getting involved in the Federation.
“It’s making sure that I’m here for the community and the Federation, to me, is a great way of doing that because it oversees so many different entities,” he said. “Personally, the contributions I’ve made from our family and through work … and giving back where I can with my skills on the finance side of things is important to me.”
Though he volunteers his time in a variety of ways for the Federation, he said he’s never consciously made a complete connection to his Jewish faith in guiding how he serves the community.
“I have felt my whole life, I’ve been sensitive to people struggling in some way, whether it’s financially, emotionally, whatever,” he said, adding that he was the kind of kid who would feel bad for someone being bullied instead of joining in with the group. “In terms of wanting to help people, I’m very fortunate … I’m not going to take all that, dive into (collecting) possessions and go off on some island, forget about everything and just enjoy my life. It’s more about this connection to wanting to make a difference, wanting to help people whose lives are tougher than mine or have different struggles, and feel good about that. I definitely learned growing up from my parents that being Jewish, giving back was a big part of Judaism as a whole, but to Jewish Cleveland more specifically, that we were a very generous community. … I’m connected in terms of my actions. … Everything is still tied to my Jewish faith, my belief in Judaism.”