New Federation president

‘We might be smaller, but we’ve got to be mightier’

An interview with Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton’s new president, Judy Abromowitz

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton President Judy Abromowitz
Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton President Judy Abromowitz

Columbus native Judy Abromowitz began volunteering at her mother’s side.

“I remember even as a kid helping stuff envelopes for Hadassah bills or sisterhood bills,” the Jewish Federation’s new president says. “I grew up as a volunteer because I was in Girl Scouts. Then I was in USY (United Synagogue Youth). I saw my Mom with the PTA and the Girl Scouts. She did all the cookies for the whole area out of our garage. And Hadassah was her life. She was president of the Columbus chapter.”

Judy and her husband, Howard, were married at Tifereth Israel in Columbus in 1977, the same year she graduated from Ohio State. Rabbi Shelly Switkin, pulpit rabbi at Tifereth Israel at the time, married them; Switkin would later become director of Dayton’s Jewish Family Services.

In 1978, Judy and Howard arrived for a six-year stay in Dayton, when Howard attended medical school at Wright State and for two years of general surgery residency. During that time, Judy worked in budgeting for Dayton Power & Light by day and went to Wright State at night for her MBA, which she earned in 1982.

They moved to Pittsburgh for four years for Howard’s urology residency, and Judy worked for Duquesne Power and Light.

When they returned to Dayton, Judy was pregnant with their fourth child. She began helping out at the JCC Preschool, directed by the late Lynda A. Cohen.

“We always appreciated the quality and scope of the JCC’s early childhood services,” Judy says.

They had only returned to Dayton for a few months when the Federation’s campaign director, the late Carol Pavlofsky, assigned Judy to co-chair the opening event for Young Women’s Division.

“It turns out I co-chaired that event with my future machatenista (her daughter Jill’s mother-in-law), Bev Gutmann. One thing led to another. Under Carol, you started doing this, you started doing that, and then you became officer of the Young Women’s Division Board, then co-chair and then chair. I remember when (retired Federation executive vice president) Peter Wells called me up to meet with him to work with Norm Weissman as co-chair for the campaign. That’s how it started. And going to Israel really helps too.”

Judy also jumped into volunteering in the general community: as a room mother, a Girl Scout and Cub Scout leader, and was elected to the board and ultimately as president of the Vandalia-Butler School District.

“I had kids in three different buildings,” she says. “I got involved, listened to things. I started thinking: I’ve got a business background. I can do this. So I went door to door when I first ran. I learned a lot for 12 years, three terms. I served as president for two years; I was vice president for six years.”

Now, with their four children grown up, Judy says what drives her to volunteer for the Federation is her five grandchildren, who are “all over the world.”

“You know, the best thing I’ve ever seen was last week when I was at Heath and Rachel
Gilbert’s son’s bris,” she says. “It’s all the little kids and the pregnant women. It’s so cool. We’ve got kids to worry about. And we have an aging community and we do a lot of good things for our elderly. I had my Mom here. This community has been good to us. It’s been good to our children. It’s been good to my mother. We try to give back.”

Judy says her goals as Federation president are “to make everybody aware of the good things we do in the Jewish Federation,” and to cultivate a new generation of strong leaders.

“We have an amazing preschool, Jewish Family Services, our Community Relations Council is so important and so is campaign. We need to remember that our community is really blessed to have the Federation. If you need us, we’re here. And it’s not just if you yourself need us, but when Jews need us. We need to get back to a sense of obligation about why we do what we do, to remember that tzedakah is an obligation. We might be smaller, but we’ve got to be mightier.”

To read the complete July 2014 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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