Steve Baron and Chris Freeman serve as co-chairs for the Community portion of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s Annual Campaign. Along with Campaign Co-chairs Chrissie and Josh Blatt, Steve and Chris will lead a team of over sixty volunteers who will help the Federation raise its monetary donation goal for this year. Taking this community-driven process to the next level, another group of more than eighty Planning and Allocations volunteers will then decide how to distribute the funds, always seeking to give where it will do the most good, locally and abroad.
“We’ve enjoyed or been the recipients of so much from the Jewish community, we felt it was time for us to give back,” Steve Baron said, when asked why he is involved in the Jewish community.
Steve co-chairs the Jewish Federation’s Community Campaign along with Chris Freeman. For Chris, getting involved was a way to further connect with the community. “Giving money is always rewarding,” he said, “but we wanted our community experience to be something more than just writing a check.”
Not from Cincinnati, but loving it
Neither of the co-chairs are from Cincinnati originally. Steve was born and raised in Florida and moved to Cincinnati in 2012 after living in Chicago for 11 years. “My wife is from Cincinnati, so when it came time for us to move out of the city and into the suburbs, it made sense to come here where we have friends and family to help support us, and have access to a great Jewish community.”
Chris moved to Cincinnati for law school in the early 2000s, and that’s when he met his wife. The couple moved around for a few years before coming back to Cincinnati in 2013, and in 2014, Chris finished his conversion to Judaism. “I wasn’t very religious before I met Vallie, but we felt very strongly about our family being Jewish. So I started to learn more about Judaism, and I began volunteering and getting active. It was a great way for us to build a community. It was a really powerful experience for me, and it was a great thing for my kids, who are now four and seven, to see.”
‘Raise your hand’
It takes many leaders to make the work of the Federation a reality. In addition to Steve and Chris, Bob Brant and Fran Coleman are currently co-chairs of Planned Giving and Endowment, Patti Heldman and Alison Caller are cochair and vice-chair of Women’s Philanthropy, and Danielle Levy is the Young Adult Division board chair.
“Our community is very fortunate to have such committed community leaders,” said Debby Rosen, Senior Development Officer at the Jewish Federation. “They are helping our community thrive and continue to grow as we move into the new decade. They are bringing new ideas and energy to the campaign, and that is going to lead to great success.”
When asked what it takes to become a leader in the Jewish community, Steve said, “raise your hand and let it be known that you want to get involved. The professional leaders at the Federation are very good at finding the right fit for you. They want you to succeed because your success is the community’s success.”
Both Steve and Chris said it is vital for people in their twenties, thirties, and forties to get involved because some of the “old guard” of the community are beginning to retire and step back from their leadership roles. “We’ve been able to enjoy so much from this community,” Steve said, “it’s time to do our part.”
Both men also pointed out how important it is for their children to see them working hard in the community. “We want them to experience the things we are experiencing,” Chris said. “My wife and I were fortunate to have great examples of leadership in our lives, and we want the same for our children. That way, when it’s their turn to lead, they’ll know just how valuable it is.”