Danielle Minson — How You Help
Why I Give: Like Father, Like Son
Our series, Why I Give, gives me chance to ask people why they volunteer and give in our Jewish community. While I initially asked Ronnen Isakov why he gives and volunteers in Jewish Cincinnati, Isakov’s 12-year-old son, Gavin, quickly became an integral part of the interview. —Danielle V. Minson
[Longer version of transcript:]
Danielle: Why do you give and volunteer in the Jewish community?
Ronnen Isakov: I find it a privilege to be able to give back to the community. I personally was a recipient of community dollars for school. And it is a pleasure and an honor to be able to give back. A strong community actually helps the whole city, and it’s very important to sustain going forward. How about for you? [he nods to his son, Gavin, inviting him to speak]
Gavin: I like giving because I know I am fortunate enough to have a nice home and food and I know there are others who aren’t as fortunate to get a meal three times a day. And I think it’s important to be giving because everybody should be able to have the same privileges and it shouldn’t matter where you’re born, everybody should be able to have a meal three times a day.
Danielle: Thank you, Gavin. Let’s dig down a bit. What in your eyes, Ronnen, are the most vital reasons for giving back?
Ronnen: My siblings and I all received financial assistance attending our Jewish day school through the Jewish community in South Africa. My parents volunteered when possible so I was always cognizant of the value of giving back. I also love the idea that my gift of time and money is anonymous, because this is always considered the highest form of giving, where both parties aren’t aware of who is giving and who is receiving.
Danielle: What made you decide to start giving back?
Ronnen: I went on a volunteer young leadership trip to Israel as part of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland almost fifteen years ago. It was a special trip with fantastic friends that allowed me to see firsthand the amazing work our Federation system does throughout the world. I also was very active in the Young Leadership Cabinet program of Federation, as well as being fortunate enough to be one of the Wexner Heritage Program Cincinnati class of 2013 participant, which allowed me to participate in many different volunteer programs throughout the country and overseas over the years.
Danielle: How did Gavin learn about giving back?
Ronnen: With all the volunteer programs [my wife] Lara is involved with as well, it has become a great basis for us to provide education to our children on the importance of getting involved and giving back to the community. Also, Gavin was at Gross Schechter schools in Cleveland, and Rockwern Academy since moving to Cincinnati six years ago, so he has seen firsthand the importance of giving back to community, and sees its effects from both a time and financial perspective.
Danielle: How does it feel to share the value of giving with your children?
Ronnen: It is a core value of our family. Both Gavin and his sister Avital continue to volunteer their time and money at various Jewish and non-Jewish organizations. We are confident that the importance of tikkun olam, repairing the world, will be a part of their adult lives and will be passed on now from their generation to the next.
Danielle: Can you tell us some of the volunteer work Gavin has done in the Jewish community?
Ronnen: Gavin has volunteered at Super Sunday ever since he was 8 or 9 years old, first collecting cards and the last few years making calls. His bar mitzvah project is to work with Most Valuable Kids, where he is raising money to help celebrate disadvantaged young children, and help them pass the standardized reading tests throughout the city.
The Isakov family lives in Amberley and attends Congregation Sha’arei Torah. Ronnen Isakov has volunteered on numerous boards including those of the Mayerson JCC, Rockwern Academy, and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. He’s also served on many committees including Federation’s Finance & Administration Subcommittee. With his wife, Lara Danziger-Isakov, he recently chaired the Federation’s Major Gifts dinner, and they currently serve as cochairs of Rockwern Academy’s Campaign for Tomorrow. Gavin’s bar mitzvah is this November.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
Stay connected: sign up for our newsletter here.