by Sherrie Saag, Communications, Jewish Federation of Omaha
Long-time volunteers, donors, and community leaders Norm and Suzy Sheldon will head the Federation’s 2015 Annual Campaign, set to begin on Sept. 15.
The Sheldons’ two daughters, Wendy and Lisa and sons-in-law, Adam Raffel and Chuck Lucoff have made Omaha their home. Norm and Suzy have four grandchildren, Ben, Jordan, Makayla and Kori.
Native Californians, Norm and Suzy met as students at UCLA. Their upcoming wedding, combined with a lengthy in-state decision process for graduate school convinced Norm to accept a spot in Creighton University’s dental school and they headed east (Suzy’s mom is from Iowa and she did have some family in the area).
According to Suzy, “Norm graduated dental school on my birthday and the plan was to be in the car heading back west. It obviously didn’t work out that way. Norm received a wonderful job offer and on May 12, 1973, the only move we made was to another Omaha apartment.”
Suzy and Norm raised both Wendy and Lisa at the JCC Pre-school. Suzy helped with what was then called The Children’s Committee. “We ran kids’ activities, after school programs and vacation days, what was the pre-cursor to Kidz Inn and the Teen Lounge. It was a time when women were just beginning to re-enter the workforce in significant numbers, and childcare was needed. I was co-chair of the Children’s Committee with Claudia Sherman,” Suzy recalled.
Both Norm and Suzy believe this year’s Annual Campaign theme perfectly describes their feelings towards helping Jews. “It really is a blend of both local and global. Our family is here, and we want to support our local Jewish life and ensure it remains for future generations,” said Norm.
“At the same time, the family of Jewish people extends all over the world and our needs have perhaps never been greater. Israel endures more and more conflict, Russian Jews are under new threats and European anti-semitism is on the rise. We will always protect and support our family and want to share that message with our community,” said Suzy.
“I think I said this when I first chaired the Annual Campaign and it bears repeating: the preservation and continuity of the Omaha Jewish community is our responsibility and ours alone. We must ensure its success with our money and our time,” said Norm.
He was referring to his Co-Chair responsibilities with friend Ellie Batt during the 2012 Annual Campaign. He is a past president of the Jewish Community Center, a past President of the Jewish Federation of Omaha, a 2008 recipient of the Federation’s Volunteer of the Year award and recipient of the 1983 Young Leadership of the Year award.
When asked what made leading the Campaign different this time, Norm wisely responded, “having my wife with me.” To which Suzy quickly joined, “and listening to her opinions.”
“When I served as president of the Jewish Federation of Omaha,” he said, “I saw first-hand the genuine care and concern afforded our community members with Annual Campaign dollars. This community is close-knit and has banded together on countless occasions to take care of its own, demonstrating its generosity again and again.”
“Truly, it’s the people who support the Campaign that make leading it so gratifying. Your gifts maintain services, provide scholarships, increase program offerings and truly help those unable to help themselves. We couldn’t do it without you.”
Norm continued, “We hope to reach out to more and more donors and have the kinds of gatherings that engage community members. Personal meetings give everybody a voice. The Campaign is not about ‘us’ taking care of ‘them’, it’s about us taking care of us.”
“Numbers don’t always tell the whole story; we want everyone to feel like a part of the community, to feel as invested as we do. That would be a great success,” added Suzy.
“That togetherness we can all relate to? Well, that’s family.”
Theirs is a true partnership and, together, Norm and Suzy agreed: “The bottom line for Omaha is that there are many tasks and challenges on the to-do list. But we cannot stand back and expect others to take care of it for us. There are Jews here, in Israel, in Ukraine and elsewhere depending on us. Everyone needs to feel like a stakeholder in the process.”
After all, Together… We are Family.