Amy Klaben’s interest in promoting equality for minorities and women began as a teenager, when she realized the power and persistence of societal injustice. She later left her work as a lawyer for the same reason – seeing a better opportunity to make a difference. Today, she is co-founder of Move to PROSPER, an innovative approach to affordable housing and opportunities for families at all income levels. She is also principal at Strategic Opportunities, where she provides strategic assistance to others looking to make change in their communities. Moreover, having children and wanting them to be knowledgeable Jewishly made her interested in engaging further with Jewish life, leading to community involvement, namely at Temple Beth Shalom.
What inspires you to give back to the community?
Rabbi Howard Apothaker, our rabbi and friend, once explained to me how some feel “commanded” (a friend said “called”) to give back. This describes me. Women and people of color do not have equal access to opportunity in our country. Historic discrimination towards women, immigrants and African Americans, segregation, redlining, etc., have created an unjust country. This is wrong and must be changed. I believe that everyone should use their talents to make our world a better place.
How did your Jewish background inform your interest in giving back?
As a child, we watched our parents be actively involved in the community and in the Jewish community. They instilled in us, I have two brothers, the responsibility for making the world a better place and speaking up when we saw inequality. As a teenager, I went to a demonstration calling upon our governmental leaders to “free the Jews in Russia.” My parents were very supportive of Israel and my grandparents (my mother’s parents) were immigrants from Russia. Being Jewish in Springfield, Ohio, meant I was part of a very small minority. All of these factors informed my identity and my interest in being involved in the community.
I have been privileged to go to college and earn a good living as a lawyer (not anymore!). Everyone should give back in some way. We did not get to where we are on our own.
Was there ever a turning point or shift that made you change how you approach community service or become active in the Jewish world?
I became active in the community as a teenager when I first learned about women’s rights and racial equity issues. During college, I worked in the Ohio Statehouse and saw how people can make change by working together and saw so much that needed to be changed. My interest in access to affordable housing stems from my advocacy for women as it is mainly women and children who are in poverty and need access to safe and decent affordable housing.
I left the practice of law – I was a partner at Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur – when I realized that I need a career where I could be fulfilled. I needed to be part of something that helped others and I became the president/CEO of Homeport. I was there for over 16 years.
Having kids was a turning point in becoming active in the Jewish community. I realized that I could not answer my older son’s questions, so we started going to preschool programs at Temple Beth Shalom. This led to my volunteering and then being on the temple board.