How You Help — Stories of Impact
“The Power of Your Gift”: Introducing 2021 Annual Campaign Cochairs Sherri and Adam Symson
Adam and his wife Sherri will be the volunteer cochairs of the campaign this year and are excited to combine their passion for the Jewish community, philanthropy, and their professional skills to make this year’s campaign a success. Sherri worked for P&G before deciding to stay at home with their two daughters, and Adam is the CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company.
Both of their careers brought them to Cincinnati in 2003. The couple thought it was going to be a temporary move, but came to see that Cincinnati would be their forever home. “Right from the start, we found it was easy to make friends in the Jewish community here,” recalled Adam. “Then when we had our first daughter in 2006, we realized that we were really putting down roots. Now, we don’t see living anywhere else, and so much of it has to do with our ties to the Jewish community and the volunteer work we enjoy doing.”
For the past five years, Adam has been working on the annual campaign, as a solicitor and then chair of the Community and Major Gift campaigns. At the same time, Sherri has been working on the Planning and Allocations Committee at the Federation, rising in leadership to lead the process as Vice President of Planning and Allocations (P&A).
“I’m a planner, and that committee was a perfect fit for me. I am very focused on stewardship—making sure the community’s resources are carefully put to use. I was able to put my business acumen to work through P&A, ensuring firsthand that the money the Federation works so hard to raise from community members is put to use wisely to benefit our community.”
She said once her term as VP ended, she decided it was her responsibility to help raise the money that she had “helped give away for so long.” Both Sherri and Adam said it was an easy choice for them to say yes when they were asked to cochair this year’s campaign. “We feel very invested in Cincinnati and our Jewish community. We are grateful for this community. Playing a role to support the Federation’s mission just feels natural. Not only because we’re donors, but because we live here, and are raising a family here,” the couple said.
Working Together, For the Future of the Community
The Symsons have an easy rapport and play off each other’s strengths wonderfully. When asked what it was going to be like working together in this way, they joked that now they’ll get to see what each other is really like. “And I think it’ll be fun to do something like this together,” Sherri said. “We care deeply about this community, and we’re excited to see what kind of an impact we can make.”
Of course, any discussion of the future right now means mentioning COVID-19. When they were asked what kind of impact the pandemic was going to have on this year’s campaign, the Symsons were optimistic.
“During COVID-19 or during normal times, I think the Annual Campaign represents an opportunity to reiterate and tell the story about how amazing this Jewish community is,” said Adam. “Of course, we’ll face obstacles and challenges as a result of COVID-19, but I don’t see the Annual Campaign as strictly being about the Federation’s reaction to the global pandemic. This community has been through a lot more than this, and we will be here for a lot longer than the virus will. We just have to work together to make sure that we’re guiding Jewish Cincinnati to be the best it can be.”
Family Life and Community Life Coming Together
The Symsons are both from Los Angeles originally, and Adam grew up Jewish, while Sherri converted to Judaism in 2001. The couple moved to Chicago in 2001 for Sherri to attend the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and then eventually to Cincinnati for their careers in 2003.
“I think to start, we were a little off the radar, since we were still new in town. When I think about our very first introduction to Federation,” remembered Sherri, “we were working out at the J and saw Super Sunday underway in the Amberley Room. We walked over and made our first donation. Everyone was so nice, we felt so welcomed and we wanted to get involved.”
When Adam and Sherri aren’t busy working and volunteering, they are spending time with their family—two daughters, ages 14 and 11, and their dog, Willow. “We enjoy spending time outside,” Adam said. “We hike, run, ride bikes… eat. We do a lot of eating!” At this, they both laughed. “As far as family, it’s only us here in Cincinnati,” Sherri said. “Both my family and Adam’s family are still in LA. We haven’t seen them in almost a year because of COVID. But we have a lot of friends here—not to mention our Jewish community family.”
“When I think of the Cincinnati Jewish community,” Adam said, “I think of it synonymously with the Jewish Federation. It interacts with the synagogues, it interacts with the partner agencies. It interacts with the most people through its development and activation function. The Federation really is the strategic arm of our Jewish community.”
When asked to think about their goals for the upcoming campaign, the couple said they wanted to once again surpass the goal, like the 2020 campaign did. But also, “we want to help people understand the power of their gift and how we can’t do it without them,” Sherri said. “We need more people to get involved, to keep this community going. If even just one person is able to see the difference they can make by getting involved, then I feel we will have done our jobs.”
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