Serving Cleveland and Repairing the World

For Shaker Heights resident Nadav Marcus, serving the community is something that’s been engrained in him since he was a young child. So when the opportunity to join Serve the Moment here in Cleveland presented itself, he jumped at the chance.

Launched in early 2020, Serve the Moment is an organization supported by the Jewish Federation of Cleveland that is designed for Jewish college students and recent college graduates. Driven by Jewish values, the program creates meaningful acts of service that address the COVID-19 crisis, its economic fallout, and the movement for racial justice. “The young men and women who are participating in this group are truly doing tikkun olam (repairing the world) here in Cleveland,” said Peter Saudek, Cleveland city coordinator for Serve the Moment. “It is very clear to me how much of an impact they’re making and future cohorts will make. Their role is so critical in helping our most vulnerable in the community.”

Serve the Moment handpicked where the approximately 25 core members would be working, based on where they would be the best fit. Each member serves an average of 10 hours a week for 10 weeks. Saudek wanted to make sure the corps members would be able to receive as much knowledge out of this program as they put in. “When I spoke to Nadav, it was clear that he has a strong passion for community service and social activism. I needed to make sure we chose the right organization so he could thrive in that environment.”

Nadav worked at the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless where their mission is to break the cycle of homelessness in our community through advocacy, education, and street outreach. “From the get go, we began talking about addressing racism as a systemic issue at its core level,” said Marcus. “My role was to close the door on some of their projects and help find where new funding could be located if it was needed. Because of my past BBYO experience and working with teens, I was also able to help review and update the language in many of their education sessions that had already been run in the local high schools and colleges.”

After graduating from Kent State University, Victoria Cohen of Westlake discovered Serve the Moment through conversations with Hillel at Kent State’s Executive Director Adam Hirsh. She gravitated to the organization because of her strong stance on social justice, along with tzedakah, and tikkun olam. “This experience was so personalized,” Cohen said. “I am very passionate about education and so I was placed with Empowering Youth, Exploring Justice, an organization that teaches young people how to be positive advocates for change and leaders in their community.”

“It was heartbreaking for me to see how some of our schools were affected by the pandemic, that children weren’t able to properly learn in school because they didn’t have access or the knowledge to use necessary technology,” Cohen continued. “We worked on building a mentorship program – very similar to a Big Brother Big Sister program – and it felt so good to be able to help these kids to learn and grow in school, even though they weren’t physically in the building.”

Partnering with the Federation, Serve the Moment has been able to reach out to many organizations in both the Jewish and general community that need assistance during this time. “This community is so strong and so vibrant. Having the Federation as a partner has been invaluable for us and our young participants,” said Saudek. “And we’re just getting started. This is only the beginning of where we’re going to go.”

“Jews have always had a history of activism that is super intersectional,” said Marcus. Getting young Jews involved in the greater Cleveland community is so important because we need that education. That person-to-person work is how we build up this community.”

“Being part of Serve the Moment changed the way I think and it has made me so much more mindful of my own privileges and more mindful about being a better person,” said Cohen. “It pointed out to me how I can be better and how I can give back. I will carry that with me for the rest of my life.”

For more information on Serve the Moment, contact Lindsay Marcus at lmarcus@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2922.

You make stories like this possible because of your support to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland's annual Campaign.