“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”
~ author unknown

As individuals, our interests and passions vary. One’s ability to take a piece of their passion and give it to an organization through volunteer work is such an amazing gift. We are fortunate to have an incredible pool of people who are willing to give their time and energy to help make the Dayton Jewish community (and community at large) a better place.

Some volunteers, such as Beth Abraham Synagogue’s Chevra Kadisha Society, work behind the scenes, quietly performing tasks that often go unrecognized. Members of this Jewish burial society anonymously prepare the bodies of recently deceased individuals by ritually bathing, shrouding and respectfully guarding them until burial. When Sarah Moore Leventhal and Cathy Gardner met with Ted Cooper, who leads Beth Abraham’s Men’s Chevra Kadisha Society, they were moved by his passion, commitment and caring nature.

The details are numerous. The process is done in a manner which provides dignity and honor for the recently deceased. In addition, the Chevra Kadisha provides families with immeasurable comfort during a difficult time. Sarah shared, “In 2000 a best friend who serves on a women’s Chevra Kadisha Society tended to my mother. I didn’t know for many years that she did this, as they perform this mitzvah privately and unthanked.”

In 2000 a best friend who serves on a women’s Chevra Kadisha Society tended to my mother. I didn’t know for many years that she did this, as they perform this mitzvah privately and unthanked.

~ Sarah Moore Leventhal
Dayton Jewish community member

In 2000 a best friend who serves on a women’s Chevra Kadisha Society tended to my mother. I didn’t know for many years that she did this, as they perform this mitzvah privately and unthanked.

~ Sarah Moore Leventhal
Dayton Jewish community member

In 2000 a best friend who serves on a women’s Chevra Kadisha Society tended to my mother. I didn’t know for many years that she did this, as they perform this mitzvah privately and unthanked.

~ Sarah Moore Leventhal
Dayton Jewish community member

Other volunteers, such as Sue Spiegel, can be seen bringing joy and light to a multitude of people throughout the community. One of her most cherished volunteer memories stems back to a time when her mother was recovering from surgery at Covenant House, which was once owned and operated by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton. It’s no surprise that her warm, friendly demeanor attracted the attention of many of the residents who called Covenant House home.

“When I would visit my mother, I would see other people I knew from the Jewish community,” shares Sue. “They were so friendly.” The experience was so rich and rewarding for Sue that she found herself going to Covenant House multiple times a week to visit with the residents. She would spend time talking with them, engaging them with questions such as “What was your first car?” or “What has been your favorite invention?” It wasn’t uncommon for Sue to arrive at 11:00 a.m., and not leave until 7:30 p.m.

Certain residents stand out in Sue’s mind. “I worked at Dayton Bag & Burlap for 40 years. One of the residents knew that, and requested I bring him bags in which he could hang salami in his room,” explains Sue. “Another resident would insist I eat snacks with her. There was also a resident who had family decorate her room, so she would take me in there to see the décor and show me pictures.”

In addition to her work in the Jewish community, Sue has been a powerhouse for causes in the general community, including Aids Resource Center Ohio (now Equitas Health) and more recently, FLOC (For Love of Children). “I didn’t know how to fundraise, but I knew how to FUNraise,” says Sue of her work with the Aids Resource Center. She proudly chaired the RED Gala in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Thanks to her hard work and dedication, Sue was able to raise $508,000 in 2012 alone.

I thought volunteerism was a way of life. I thought everyone just behaved that way.

~ Sue Gruenberg
Dayton Jewish community member

I thought volunteerism was a way of life. I thought everyone just behaved that way.

~ Sue Gruenberg
Dayton Jewish community member

I thought volunteerism was a way of life. I thought everyone just behaved that way.

~ Sue Gruenberg
Dayton Jewish community member

At FLOC, which helps underprivileged and abused children, Sue is in charge of their toy cottage and boutique. She has been instrumental in organizing and expanding the boutique and cottage, creating a true “shopping” experience for community members who utilize their services.

Another volunteer who has touched the lives of both the Jewish and non-Jewish community is Sue Gruenberg. A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Sue began volunteering at an early age. “I thought volunteerism was a way of life,” says Sue. “I thought everyone just behaved that way.”

For years, Sue volunteered with Jewish Family Services, helping to deliver Holiday Outreach Bags to seniors who were in care facilities or isolated. She always greeted each person with a smile, making them feel cared for and appreciated. She was also instrumental in the installation of the pool at the JCC in Trotwood.

More recently, Sue has graciously opened her home during the holidays to Dayton area Jewish young adults. Many of these young professionals are new to the area, having relocated to Dayton for school or work. Some are not able to return home for the holidays. Sue’s generosity ensures that no one spends Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur alone. The gatherings also help to connect young adults in our community personally and professionally.

In the community-at-large, Sue has lent her time and talents to Dayton Public Schools, where she helped develop the Human Growth Center curriculum. She has also volunteered at Daybreak, which operates the Miami Valley’s only 24-hour crisis hotline and emergency youth shelter, and includes outreach, prevention, transitional housing, life-skills education, and other follow-up services for runaway, throwaway, and homeless youth.

Over the past year, Sue has worked closely with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in an effort to end human trafficking. She spends countless hours educating young adults about the dangers of human trafficking and how to protect themselves from falling victim to it. In addition, Sue networks with local non-profits and businesses such as the YWCA, Daybreak, hotels, restaurants and tattoo parlors (as victims are frequently “branded”) to inform them about the signs of human trafficking and what to do if they think someone is in trouble. She also circulates flyers showing missing children. The first flyer distributed resulted in seven of the eight children listed being found.

Because of amazing volunteers like Ted Cooper, Sue Spiegel, and Sue Gruenberg, organizations like ours and others in the community are able to thrive and continue working toward their respective missions. When we make time to give back, our lives become more meaningful. Volunteering is among one of the most priceless gifts we can offer in this world.

“It is not incumbent upon you to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it.”
Arot 2:21

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