For Leslie Resnik, community involvement had been part of her life well before retirement.
Growing up in a dual-income home, her parents didn’t have much time to give back, other than monetary donations. But Resnik was encouraged to volunteer in her free time. She started volunteering at Mt. Sinai Hospital at their snack bar on Sundays as a teenager.
“My mother probably gave money to every organization that ever asked her,” Resnik said. “My dad, when he retired, volunteered for a number of organizations. They definitely valued (community involvement).”
Now almost eight years into her retirement, Resnik has done numerous things to give back to the community that raised her. In addition to serving on various boards like the John P. Murphy Foundation, the Kent State Fashion School, the Kent State Fashion Museum and Council Gardens, a majority of her time is spent in her role as vice president of communications at National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland. She’s held the volunteer position since 2014.
CJN: Why are you so heavily involved with NCJW/Cleveland?
Resnik: When I was a young married person, I spent my first married year in San Francisco. When we moved back here, I knew I wanted to get involved. After I became pregnant and had my children, I knew I wanted to do volunteer work. I got involved with NCJW at the time. I was a ‘Big Sister” at Bellefaire and also was the editor of the NCJW bulletin and was on the board.
When it became time for me to decide what I wanted to do professionally, it was either going back to school and get a master’s in social work or to go into journalism. But I decided that from my experience editing bulletins, it was the direction I wanted to go. I went to Kent State University and started the master’s program (in public relations) and got an internship at Tri-C. I didn’t complete (the degree) and took a job at the school instead.
At that time, I knew NCJW gave me my career. So, when I retired, I knew I had to give back to them.
All of the work that NCJW does is so important – the literacy work, foster work and social justice work. Back when I was first getting involved with NCJW as a young woman, I was inspired by the caliber of women I saw there. They were all smart women. They inspired me to be the person I am today – in any activity. You always want to rise to the level of your colleagues.
CJN: What does community involvement mean to you?
Resnik: I think life needs purpose. And at various stages in one’s life, that purpose becomes maybe one thing and then maybe it’s another. It’s ever-changing. But at this stage in my life, when I retired, I felt my career was my identity. I was a communications person and I loved what I did and I did it well. I thought when I retired, “who am I now?” It became more than just being a communications person at this stage of my life. It became doing something that is going to benefit others who are vulnerable in our community. That has become a purpose for me.
CJN: How does Judaism fit into your interest to give back?
Resnik: It’s all about tikkun olam – repairing the world. That is a purpose I hold dear. I find that is everyone’s responsibility. A lot of people complain about how things are, but it’s important to figuratively put your money where your mouth is. If you don’t like something, you should do what you can to make a difference.
When she’s not volunteering, Resnik likes to travel and take classes.
“The very first thing I did when I retired was go to India,” she said. “I wanted to see what the future of the world might look like and also wanted to see a culture very different from mine. What I love about this phase of my life is that I learn something new every day. I learn that I don’t know very much – but I’m willing to learn more.”