Rebekah Dorman has always had a professional and personal focus on improving the lives of children and families facing challenges like poverty and mental illness.
Before founding Kadima Consulting, the Beachwood resident was a developmental psychologist. She has held various positions in the nonprofit world, including vice president of Applewood Centers, where she created programs for families of children with chronic health issues, a home visiting program for low-income families and a stress management program for teens in foster care.
During her time as senior program director for families and children at United Way, she worked to help children falling behind in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and to support teens aging out of foster care. As director of Invest in Children and the Cuyahoga County Office of Early Childhood, she led the expansion of the county’s Universal Pre-K Program to serve nearly 5,000 children.
In the community, Dorman is president of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation. She also is a past president and current board member of Magnolia Clubhouse; a member of the human resources development committee at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland; an education committee member at The City Club of Cleveland; and a past board member of Cleveland Playhouse.
Growing up in Detroit, Dorman calls herself a Clevelander “by choice” after falling in love with her husband who obtained his Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve University. Seeing the beauty of the community, Dorman said she also noticed its challenges in child poverty and mental health services, and felt compelled to step up.
“Children are our future and deserve the community’s support,” she said. “Adults with serious mental health issues must contend with their illness compounded by stigma, but they can be productive citizens when supported.”
As a teenager, Dorman said she grew up in a Reform temple, Temple Beth El in Detroit, where social justice was a large part of her life. There, she developed a tutoring program for inner-city kids.
“I felt I had all of these advantages and other people should have those same opportunities,” she said. “My parents were my role models, and they both felt like helping others was the noblest profession. ... As I learned more about tikkun olam, I felt it was the most beautiful concept. It’s not incumbent on you to finish the work, but you have to start the process.”
Saying a difference maker is someone who “challenges the status quo” by thinking outside of the box, Dorman finds herself considering two quotes often – a Robert Kennedy quote, “Some men see things the way they are and say why. I dream of things that never were, and say why not,” and a Frederick Douglass quote, “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
“It’s very hard to undo early trauma and damage, so I’ve just felt that everyone deserves the best start in life,” Dorman said. “I want to feel like I made a difference and can justify the space I took up on earth. All of the stories I’ve heard of the children and families whose lives were improved because of actions I took, programs I created and funding I provided, that is most meaningful to me. I can’t imagine anything better than that.”