Muriel Weber

Muriel Weber received a lifetime achievement award from her synagogue, Oheb Zedek Cedar Sinai Synagogue, at its Unity and Community Dinner May 28 presented by Rabbi Noah Leavitt. 

Growing up, Muriel Weber wasn’t exposed to heavy community involvement. Born to Holocaust survivors, her parents kept to themselves and did what they could, but it wasn’t until she was a young woman that Weber got the volunteering bug.

Starting with her involvement in Hadassah, where she learned more about the Jewish community, to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Gross Schechter Day School and Siegal College (now Case Western Reserve University’s Siegal Lifelong Learning program), now Weber can’t do enough.

With a majority of her time spent giving back to her synagogue, serving in a number of leadership roles with Kol Israel Foundation or assisting at the Kosher Food Pantry, her days are jampacked. At Kol Israel, Weber is the immediate past president, co-chaired the Yom Hashoah event for two years and served on committees. Additionally, she also donated her parents’ papers to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and supports Christians United for Israel.

“I’m hands-on and I like to help when and where I can,” Weber said. “It’s a little bit of everything.”

CJN: How did you get so heavily involved with Kol Israel?

Weber: I would portray it more as my overall involvement in Holocaust education and commemoration, which really came about in 2009 after my mother passed away. I was actually invited at that time to join the Yom Hashoah commemoration committee. At the time, Daniel Blain headed up the community relations council for the (Jewish) Federation (of Cleveland) and he called me one day and asked, “Oh, your parents were survivors, right?” And I said, “Yes.” And he asked if I could come and be on that committee. He said he needed help and needed people with some background. So, that was the start of it. As a child, growing up, my parents always went to the Kol Israel Fall Memorial. And I went to Yom Hashoah events a few times through the years, but my parents weren’t organization people. But one thing really led to another.

I got involved in the Yom Hashoah planning and I met some other people, and I got involved and they invited me to their dinner that year. It’s the kind of thing where it snowballed as I started to really meet much more of the survivor community that was in Cleveland. That was really unknown to me because my parents were adults during the war and they had a limited circle of survivor friends. So, this was a whole other world of people whom I didn’t know.

And so, I just met all kinds of new people and one thing led to another and that resulted in me coming on the board. At one point, we reached a pivotal moment where they asked if I could do some strategic planning for them, and really do things in a more serious way.

That’s when I got much more heavily involved, which was around 2015.

CJN: Why is Kol Israel’s mission so important to you?

Weber: We’re making that transition to a time where there will no longer be eyewitnesses to what happened in the past century. That generation is passing. So, the legacy is passing, and that’s not to mention the survivors themselves. We’re losing the firsthand experience. The education is really important. Thankfully, last year, I was able to preside over the opportunity to acquire the Face to Face program from Congregation Shaarey Tikvah. That’s just going to be a really tremendous, fabulous opportunity for us to really beef up what we were doing educationally and take it to the next level.

It’s so important to have that education, especially in today’s climate with all of the ignorance. And without getting political, you have people calling each other “Hitler” or “Nazi” and this name calling, and referring to things at the border as concentration camps, it just illustrates the tremendous ignorance about it all. So, it’s clear the education is needed, now more than ever.

And as someone raised in a survivor home, I think the Holocaust really shaped what the Jewish experience is today. Whether you’re a survivor family, whether it’s Israel, whatever it is, it has really tremendous meaning. There are people who don’t want to hear what their family went through. In my case, my parents did not want to talk about their experience.

So, there are tremendous gaps in my personal knowledge like where they were, what they did or whatever. To have the ability to be able to fill in some of that, it’s important. Now, people are ready to unpack some of that. And that’s on a personal, family level. It’s thinking about the legacy we’re going to pass on. I’m not married, I don’t have grandchildren. But I’m still thinking about the legacy. It’s just so monumental. Every story is precious and meaningful.

CJN: How did you get involved with Christians United for Israel?

Weber: I happened to hear one of their speakers here in Cleveland about 10 years ago. And it’s just really interesting because they go by the statements in Genesis that say, “Those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed.” They are the best friends Israel and the Jewish people have. It’s just really been an interesting opportunity for me to connect with some friends there who are so unapologetically committed to the Jewish people and Israel. It wasn’t Evangelical Christians who perpetrated the Holocaust. So, there is just tremendous support. Their love and knowledge is so inspiring. I always come away from their conference really charged. Had we had things like that in place 80 years ago, the whole story of the world would’ve been different.

CJN: What inspired you to get involved in your community?

Weber: I just kind of started, being inspired by my role models. As Jews, you see things around you and want to make things better. You know with what we’ve done to be a light unto the nations and influence the world, when things are broken, we look to fix them. That’s what tikkun olam is all about. There were just so many things and I saw those opportunities. One thing leads to another.

CJN: Why should others look to community involvement for their retirement?

Weber: There is a lot of satisfaction. And it is a great opportunity for people to utilize whatever skills they had professionally, or even if they raised their family instead. There are so many opportunities and a full gamut of things to do. You have this satisfaction and a sense of achievement whether you’ve participated in events or solved a problem for an organization, or even if you made sure a kid got a hot lunch that day.

Looking to the future, Weber is excited to ease into what she’s calling her “second retirement.”

“I’m kind of planning my second retirement now because again, some of the commitments have a fair amount of responsibility when you’re the president of this and that,” she said. “So, I’m looking forward to really unwinding. I’m looking to do a lot of reading and studying and some things around the house. I’d like to get back to playing the piano a little bit. You know, just do some things along those lines and develop new hobbies. I want to get to the point where I don’t have to get up and know I have a full schedule. Just being home and being a little bit more spontaneous.”

Weber said she still plans to be involved, though.

“I still plan to maintain interest and commitment to the causes I care about, and I’m sure I’ll find new ones as well, but not on such an intense level,” she said.

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