Some city council and school board members – along with a few mayors, judges and county council members – have been learning a lot about issues they have in common and how they may be able to collaborate regionally.
What do they have in common? They’re all Jewish.
Jewish Elected Officials of Cuyahoga County has met three times since last October at Corky and Lenny’s restaurant in Woodmere. The group will meet there again at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 27. Amy Kaplan, director of government relations for the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, will be the speaker at the next meeting.
Attendance has been strong – with 20 to 25 officials per meeting – and the level of interest high, said Shaker Heights Councilman Rob Zimmerman, one of the group’s founders.
“It’s not a political group,” Zimmerman said. “We are nonpartisan in what we do and bipartisan in makeup. We don’t take positions on political campaigns or issues. We don’t take any action or vote on anything.”
Instead, the group focuses on getting to know one another better and discussing topics of common interest as elected officials and as Jews, Solon Councilman Ed Kraus said.
“We all have similar issues, whether it’s housing in our communities, infrastructure or safety,” Kraus said. “Regionalization has become a big topic, how to work with each other to share common resources.”
“It’s exactly what ought to be happening, as far as regionalism,” Zimmerman said.
Membership is open to all Jewish elected officials who serve or reside in Cuyahoga County. The group has agreed to meet at least quarterly.
The roster includes 50 names, led by a six-member steering committee: Cleveland Heights Councilwoman Bonnie Caplan, Beachwood Councilman Saul Eisen, Kraus, Orange Mayor Kathy Urdang Mulcahy, Lyndhurst Councilman Lane Schlessel and Zimmerman.
“Some of us have been talking about doing this for a long time,” Zimmerman said. “Ed Kraus, Lane Schlessel and I met several times over the spring and summer (of 2012) to talk about concepts and details. Then we invited Mayor Mulcahy, Bonnie Caplan and Saul Eisen to participate and continued the discussion and refined our thinking.”
Late last summer, the group asked Bruce Hennes, co-owner of Hennes Paynter Communications, to be its facilitator, and he agreed. Hennes is a past president of the Cleveland Jewish News Board of Directors.
“We wanted someone who is not an elected official to run the meetings, and Bruce has done a great job of facilitating,” Kraus said. “He makes sure everyone participates, and he keeps a good flow (at the meetings).”
Hennes, a Cleveland Heights resident who is Jewish, also sends out reminders to the group about upcoming meetings. He offers his services pro bono.
Caplan said she looks forward to the meetings.
“There are no responsibilities; nobody has to do anything but show up,” she said. “It’s a higher level of talking and sharing, and there’s a nice camaraderie.
“The more communication we have with other elected people who are dealing with the same issues, the better it is for our own entity.”
Each meeting opens with a D’var Torah, a talk on topics relating to a section of the Torah.
At the last meeting in March, the group heard from a panel of law directors that discussed such topics as economic development, law enforcement and regional collaboration and then took questions from the group.
“I think people really enjoy it, and hopefully they get something out of it,” Kraus said. “It’s just great to get together with fellow Jewish officials in a social context.”
Jewish Elected Officials of Cuyahoga County
Mayor: Merle Gorden
Councilmen: Saul Eisen, Fred Goodman, Martin Horwitz, Melvin Jacobs, Brian Linick, Mark Mintz, Mark Wachter
School board members: Mitch Luxenburg, Josh Mintz, David Ostro, Steve Rosen, Dr. Brian Weiss
Councilwoman Bonnie Caplan
Councilman: Jason Stein
School board member: Kal Zucker (Cleveland Heights-University Heights)
Councilman: Darryl Langman
Councilman: Lane Schlessel
Councilwoman: Donna Finney
Councilman Steve Richman
Mayor: Kathy Urdang Mulcahy
Councilmen: Herb Braverman, Brandon Duber, Jud Kline
Councilwoman: Frances Ritsky Kluter
School board members: Tom Bonda, Jennifer Cohen, Sam Steinhouse
Mayor: Rick Bain
Councilwomen: Gail Mayland, Jill Miller Zimon
Mayor: Earl Leiken
Councilmen: Brian Gleisser, Rob Zimmerman
Councilwoman: Julianna Senturia
Councilmen: Ed Kraus, Robert Pelunis
Councilmen: Marty Gelfand, Ed Icove
Councilwoman: Jane Goodman
Vice Mayor: Frankie Goldberg
Councilman: Mark Wiseman
Councilwoman: Adele Zucker
Councilman: Dave Greenspan, Westlake
Councilwoman: Sunny Simon, South Euclid
Judge: Carolyn Friedland, Shaker Heights
Judge: Stuart Friedman, Cleveland
Judge: Cheryl Karner, Orange
Josh Mandel, Beachwood
Armond Budish, Beachwood