Tamara Harkavy — How You Help
Why We Give: Moving Away but Still Giving Back
“Cincinnati is home,” Eric Lamont said. “Even though neither of us are from here, we’ve been an active part of this community for the last 8 years. It’s where I met Robyn, it’s where we got married, it’s where we welcomed our son into our lives. And the Jewish community has been the fabric that has woven it all together.”
It was seven in the morning. It was dark. It was cold. This was the second time the interview had been set up. The first was canceled due to an ice storm.
When Robyn and Eric Lamont came in to the room, all of those dreary morning thoughts disappeared. Robyn and Eric were bubbly. They were bright. They had coffee.
They had just dropped off their nine-month-old son, Arlo, at daycare, and were busy taking care of other loose ends as they prepared to move to Arkansas for Eric’s new job. That was the bad news; they’re leaving Cincinnati. The good news is they plan on coming back. They even plan on remaining active in our community, despite the nearly 700-mile distance.
Robyn agreed: “The Cincinnati community has made a huge investment in us, and I just couldn’t imagine it not being part of my life.”
“To me, our physical presence is not the critical thing that defines whether or not we should support the community,” said Eric. “What is important is whether or not we believe that this community is valuable, whether or not the community needs our support. It was a simple decision—we want to stay involved while we aren’t here.”
Both Are Very Involved
And for these two “staying involved” isn’t just giving an annual donation or attending a meeting here or there. Robyn is involved in LEAD (the Federation leadership program for young adults), as well as the Planning and Allocations Committee, Miami University Hillel, the Ish Jewish and Israeli Arts and Culture Festival, and she participated in the Wexner Heritage Program. As for Eric, he’s involved with the Federation and Young Adult Division boards, the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center, and the LEAD committee.
When asked why they felt it was so important to be involved, and at such a great degree, they gave very different answers. “I grew up in a rich and vibrant Jewish neighborhood near Columbus, Ohio,” said Robyn. “I had lots of opportunities to engage. I went to the Jewish Community Center childcare program. I went to summer camp, I worked in summer camps. For me, it was natural to be engaged as an adult. To give my free time back because I had gotten so much from the Jewish community.”
As for Eric, “The reason I got so involved was because I didn’t grow up with a vibrant Jewish community. I was one of the few Jews in my school, so when I first went to university and felt what it means to be Jewish outside of the synagogue, it was really meaningful for me. I think the Jewish community can be an incredible force for good, and I think the community here in Cincinnati does that, and I want to be part of that—I want to bring it to a higher level.”
Both agreed that taking those first steps to get involved can be difficult or intimidating. They suggest starting small. Call some of the organizations you may be interested in and see if they need someone to help change the light bulbs, or tend to the garden. “The biggest help that we can offer the community,” Eric said, “is raising our hand and showing up with our skills, our time. That can help enable us to all reach our broader community goals. For example, my mother taught three Sunday school classes. If she didn’t, no one else would have. There would have been a gap in our community.”
“Giving back means showing up,” explained Robyn, “and for me, my Jewish identity guides my decision-making, it guides how I stay grounded in myself.”
For Eric, “I recognize how critical it is to give because I’ve seen a community where things don’t get done—the kids’ Shabbat on Saturday morning doesn’t happen unless a couple of parents get together and someone pays for orange juice and challah. Now, we don’t have that exact scenario here, but it’s still vital that everyone in our generation support and contribute with time, dollars, and ideas. Every little bit matters, even though it may not feel like that.”
They Will Return to Cincinnati Because of This Community
The Lamonts plan on returning to Cincinnati when Eric’s project is complete in a few years. When asked what they hope to see happen in Cincinnati while they’re away, they said they hope to see continued involvement in the young adult community, plus more intergenerational connections, and continued growth for good. “The Jewish community is a pillar in Cincinnati,” said Robyn, “a force in promoting equity and inclusion, and I think that we can continue to do that, and I really hope to see that growth where we can be a leader in that space. Cincinnati’s JCRC is already making great strides on this front. Earlier this year it led an interfaith summit on driving out hatred; in fact, it was a JCRC event that first drew me in to becoming more involved in the community.”
The couple is excited to raise their son in the Cincinnati Jewish community. “The wellspring of support has been incredible, overwhelming in a good way,” recalled Eric. Robyn added, “Being able to share something that is so important to us—this community—and share it with our child, and see it through his eyes—re-exploring that life has been beautiful. And for us, that speaks to the Cincinnati area, just how much people have embraced us and loved our child with us.”
A Farewell and a Thank You
As the interview started to wind down and Robyn and Eric began thinking about all of those boxes that still needed packing, they asked if they could share one final thought:“We just want to say thank you to the entire Jewish community and all of its leadership for taking a chance on us. Thank you for continuing to think of us for opportunities and for supporting us and being a big piece of what makes our life special. This community has believed in us and given us great opportunity to learn and to grow, and also give back. We are better people for it. The opportunities we’ve had are things we could have never imagined, but we are so grateful for all of it.”
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