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Susan Brenner, A Real Mensch, Honored with Award
To be called a mensch is the highest praise in our community. On May 30 the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati awarded Susan Brenner the Mesel Wieder Mensch Award, which recognizes someone who has volunteered in a leadership role on a Jewish Federation committee or a Create Your Jewish Legacy team.
Cincinnati Hillel nominated Brenner for the award for her committed work as team leader for its Create Your Jewish Legacy team. Emcee Marty Hiudt announced the winner at the Jewish Federation’s Sustainers Event, in front of an audience of over 230 supporters of Cincinnati’s Jewish community.
Cincinnati Hillel’s executive director, Sharon Stern, said, “Susan Brenner is a perfect fit for the Mensch Award. Despite her low-key humble persona, she is a consummate fundraiser. Susan is gracious, sensitive, conscientious and persistent. Susan is usually in the background, but she is always making an impact.”
Asked how it felt to get the award, Brenner simply said, “Of course, I was very honored.”
When asked what mensch meant to her, Brenner offered, “For me, a mensch is someone who is kind and is always wanting to do kind things for others. My motto in life is: I don’t think it takes a lot to make someone feel special or happy.”
The award was established to honor those in Cincinnati’s Jewish community like Mesel Wieder, who exemplified the meaning of the word mensch. Wieder survived the Holocaust in Ukraine. He was extremely involved in Adath Israel Synagogue and showed his dedication to education through volunteering for Rockwern Academy’s L’dor V’dor program. Wieder frequently attended Holocaust & Humanity Center programs, and was known to burst into a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.” Wieder passed away in 2010 at the age of 96.
Volunteering has always been part of her life. Brenner said, “I started volunteering at a young age. My mother would take me along with her to help make and serve lunch for seniors at our Temple in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. All through high school, I volunteered with disadvantaged youth and seniors. I was also a Red Cross volunteer. Needless to say, I’m still volunteering and enjoy every minute of it.”
Brenner is a founding member of the Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund and long-time solicitor for the Federation’s community campaign; she has volunteered for the Federation for over 24 years. She served on the Federatin’s Planning and Allocations Committee, including as cochair of the Youth and Family Council; on the Israel and Overseas Committee; and as cochair of Partnership 2000 (now Partnership2Gether). She is a Lion of Judah, a member of the Moss Society, and was a Melton scholar. She is currently on the boards of the Holocaust & Humanity Center and of Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati. She also volunteers at the Mercy/Jewish Hospital and as a Neighbor to Neighbor volunteer at Wise Temple.
Cincinnati Hillel and its future is important to her. Brenner said, “It’s very important for me to see this community be sustainable for many many years. It was rewarding to be a part of the [Cincinnati Hillel] CYJL [Create Your Jewish Legacy] team and share the success of our community commitment.”
Asked what wisdom she would offer the younger generation, Brenner said, “Get involved and serve on a Jewish organization board. I have always found pleasure in giving, building relationships and helping the community.”
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