Moving to a place where there may have been a lack of Jewish community caused Bonnie Abramowitz to further engage with Judaism, so her children would have a strong example of how to live Jewishly. Later, after moving to Central Ohio, she found her place as executive director of Temple Beth Shalom, as well as becoming involved with numerous volunteer organizations. While she said there are many local causes she cares about – food insecurity, job training, poverty, foster kids, Holocaust survivors, literacy or pets – and a limited amount one person can do, Abramowitz aims to bring those issues to the attention to her those around her to create more meaningful connections and difference-making opportunities.
Was there ever a turning point or shift that made you change how you approach community service or become active in the Jewish world?
Seventeen years ago, my husband and I moved to Charlotte, N.C. from the Northeast. At the time, our kids were in fourth grade, second grade and kindergarten. In our first month of living there, a boy in the neighborhood was talking to our son and said, “I know you are Jewish, but why haven’t you accepted Jesus into your life?” I realized then that I did not know enough about Judaism and if I really wanted my kids to live Jewishly, then I had to go back to Hebrew school.
I started taking classes and reading books. I started attending services more often and stayed around to talk to folks after services. To really learn all the words to all the prayers, I joined the choir. I joined committees and sisterhood.
Living in Charlotte had a profound influence on my participation in Jewish life.
Did you have any mentors? If so, what was your relationship to them and how did they impact you?
I wouldn’t say mentors, but definitely friends and advisers along the way who helped shape me into who I am today. One of those is my mom, who I know is always in my corner. She knows me well and tells me the honest truth, as only a mother can. She is a doer and is always organizing groups of people for an event, birthday party or gift purchase. For as long as I can remember, my parents have been involved in volunteering with their temple or community.
My friend, Barbara Stone, talked with me for countless hours about feelings, emotions, love and raising kids. She is a very profound woman who helped me understand my emotions are a gift and to use them in a healthy way.
My husband is my constant cheerleader, critic, sounding board and best friend. Scott is the best thing to happen in my life and the reason I am where I am today. He pushes me to be the best version of myself.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the Central Ohio Jewish community? What should be done to promote change?
I think there are three issues that are interconnected.
The first challenge is becoming a cohesive group with all Jewish organizations working together. In some cases, we are competing with each other but for the sake of the community, organizations need to find more ways to partner together. An example – when you live outside the Bexley/JCC circle, you have fewer ways to engage in Jewish life, other than if you’re a member of Temple Beth Shalom or Congregation Beth Tikvah. Programming needs to move around our community so all can benefit without driving an hour round trip. I see the beginning of this with the change in JewishColumbus.
The second challenge is unaffiliation. In my role, I see people resign from the temple and not join somewhere else. I worry – where is their Jewish connection going to come from? Where will they worship for the holidays? Who will they turn to for help in a crisis?
The third challenge is funding. All organizations need money to operate and thrive.