Debbi Sugarman understands, better than most, that the path toward giving to charity is full of seemingly insurmountable obstacles this year. As the vice president of her company, Restaurant Equippers, she now finds herself working the loading docks alongside her short-staffed team — most days, they don’t even have time to stop and enjoy the free lunch she provides.
“We had to lay off several people [because of Covid-19 and the lockdowns]. As a business owner, I’m heartbroken that I don’t have my people here,” Sugarman says. “We have people who have worked for us for 20, 25, 28 years. Our employees like us and stick with us. So, to have to lay people like this off — people who are so important to our business and our growth — how do you then go to people in that situation and ask for donations?”
People are hurting, and not only from the pandemic. Covid-19 acts as a stage that brings to light many of the pre-existing, fundamental flaws in our society: antisemitism, systemic racism, police brutality, income inequality, under-funded school systems and so much more. As Columbus residents in this moment, we are acutely aware of the pain we feel as individuals, as well as the pain felt by our neighbors that we can’t fully understand.
Despite the unprecedented times, Sugarman says that it has never been more important to give to JewishColumbus; if you can’t give $1,000, then give $18. Donations of every size support vital JewishColumbus initiatives, such as Holocaust education across the state and nation. JewishColumbus fights to tell the stories of oppressed peoples so that their histories are not forgotten.
“My father, Morris, survived Auschwitz. He was the only member of his family to survive,” Sugarman says. “Before he passed away — it’ll be 17 years in June — my father actively spoke all over the state about the Holocaust. After he passed away, the teachers asked if I could come and speak. So I started going all over and speaking.”
Not long after, Sugarman became involved with the Holocaust Education Committee, a group she would later co-chair. She is also on the boards of the Jewish Community Relations Committee and the Israel and Overseas Committee. To say that Sugarman is busy with her myriad responsibilities is an understatement.
The roots of her commitment to the Jewish community run deep. Sugarman attributes her values, in large part, to the example set forth by her parents. Now, she works tirelessly to set the same example for her family.
“I feel that whatever anybody can give is so important. When you go ahead and give back to your community, you feel good. You really do,” Sugarman says. “It gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Tzedakah. It’s a very good feeling. I’m so happy I became involved. This is a huge part of my life, and it’s one of the more meaningful parts of my life.”
Amidst all the profound turmoil in our world today — the public health crisis, widespread economic distress, police brutality, political unrest, frustration and anger — it’s easy to feel hopeless. This is one of the hardest times to give back to the community. But, it is also a time when tzedakah — the very act of generosity — can restore direction and meaning for those who feel lost. When you give to JewishColumbus, you become a beacon of hope and an agent of change. Together, we can traverse the uncertain terrain that lies ahead.
Join community leaders like Sugarman by donating to our annual campaign. Your contribution — no matter the scale — represents your pride in Columbus’ Jewish community. When you give to JewishColumbus, every dollar makes a difference.