Bringing holistic perspective to inclusive community building
As our newest JewishColumbus Board Chair, Liz Shafran brings with her decades of experience in Jewish community building. Under her leadership, Liz aspires to create a culture of inclusivity in Columbus.
Prior to her role as Board Chair, Liz boasts a rich diversity of experience within the Columbus and global Jewish communities. Throughout college, she actively participated in The Ohio State University Hillel and after graduating, sat on the board of a Cincinnati synagogue where she was also the lay leader of a young adult congregation.
Shortly thereafter, Liz and her family moved to Boston where she quickly became active at her local synagogue and Jewish community center.
“I really found that in the places I went, the way I connected to people was through my Jewish community,” Liz says. “It also became really important because it grounded my kids with friendships and a feeling of connection and a sense of belonging. While we were in Boston, we weren’t near family. So, on those really important holidays where we couldn’t necessarily go back to Ohio to see our family, we created our own family through our congregational sphere.”
“I really found that in the places I went, the way I connected to people was through my Jewish community.” – Liz Shafran, JewishColumbus Board Chair
But Liz says that she’s a Midwesterner at heart. In 2005, shortly after the birth of her second child, the Shafran family decided to put down roots in Columbus, where she now owns and manages a residential real estate company. Shortly after moving here, Liz became involved in the Planning and Allocation arm of what is now JewishColumbus.
“For me, that was a great way to get a window into the community, because when your job is to help make decisions on resource allocation, you get to have the big, holistic conversations on community needs,” Liz says. “It helped me see the breadth of programs and services that are available here.”
“[W]hen your job is to help make decisions on resource allocation, you get to have the big, holistic conversations on community needs.” – Liz Shafran, JewishColumbus Board Chair
In this role, Liz discovered programs essential to a thriving Jewish community, such as a fund to provide Jews in need with the dignity of a proper burial.
“You don’t think of these things when you’re 30 years old and have a toddler in diapers,” Liz says. “But then I began to see how much that matters and what it really means to take care of your community as a whole.”
Liz balanced her big-picture JewishColumbus work with her perspective as a Jewish Community Center (JCC) board member. She experienced, firsthand, the challenges that face an agency with a specific mission, programs and services. Her next phase of involvement was with Community Impact and JewishColumbus.
“That widened the scope for me, because at that point, we were looking at both keeping our partner agencies in a very sustainable position where they could fulfill their mission, but also at how we could drive innovation in our city to bring up new programs for a changing city,” Liz says.
After her work in Community Impact, Liz shifted to a new role as Annual Campaign Chair where she asked donors to invest in the community through an annual gift.
“For me, that was a beautiful movement, because I could go from fully understanding where the resources were going to being able to tell why those resources are needed because I knew the impact of what those gifts meant,” Liz says. “It was an easier transition because I had the passion – I had the passion for knowing that an $18 gift can actually make a huge difference. I helped donors understand that $18, $180, $1,800 and $1.8 million gifts really all matter and that, collectively, that is what powers our city.”
“I helped donors understand that $18, $180, $1,800 and $1.8 million gifts really all matter and that, collectively, that is what powers our city.” – Liz Shafran, JewishColumbus Board Chair
Liz’s experience also extends beyond Central Ohio. During her time at Community Impact, Liz got the opportunity to travel to Israel as part of a Jewish Federations of North America mission. There, she saw the impact of donor investment in Israel.
“I’d gone to Israel on trips before, but when you see through the eyes of a tourist, you don’t necessarily see all the complexities that exist in Israel,” Liz says. “We talked to Haredi women, ultra-Orthodox women, who were receiving training so that they could become elevated in the workplace and earn more money to support their families. That’s something that you would see here as well, but it’s not necessarily something that you think of in terms of a gift for Israel.”
As she takes the helm as board chair of JewishColumbus, Liz brings with her this holistic perspective and a passion for inclusivity.
“One of the things that’s really important to me is that all Jews in Columbus – including those who are Jewish-adjacent, like someone who is in an interfaith relationship – feel a sense of belonging within the Jewish community,” Liz says. “What that means is that they feel welcome. They feel comfortable identifying as Jewish and also that the Jewish community is there to support all the different ways that people choose to live Jewishly.”
“One of the things that’s really important to me is that all Jews in Columbus – including those who are Jewish-adjacent, like someone who is in an interfaith relationship – feel a sense of belonging within the Jewish community.” – Liz Shafran, JewishColumbus Board Chair
As she looks to the future, Liz plans to leverage her role as board chair to foster collaboration among Jewish agencies.
“I believe that we’re at a moment in time where a lot of our major agencies in our city are beginning to think about how we can work together collectively to solve some of our larger-scale community issues,” says Liz. “That’s really, really exciting because we can be more powerful together and leverage our collective experiences, our skills and our resources to accomplish great things.”