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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


 

February 13, 2015  RSS feed
Federation

Text: T T T

Mark’s Mensches

Steve Schwersky
Mark Segel
Executive Director The Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties marksegel@jewishpinellas.org

There’s so much vital work to be done.

One of my most important responsibilities is recruiting volunteers to ensure the Jewish Federation has the resources necessary to fulfill its mission of ensuring the continuity of Jewish life and culture. All too often, as I share the great need we have for volunteers, I hear “I’m just too busy.” I would suggest the challenge is not so much a lack of time but rather how some are setting their priorities.

As you likely know, the Jewish people represent less than 2 percent of the population here in the United States. If you look at the lists of volunteers, directors, and donors to the various local non-Jewish charities, more often than not you’ll find that representation by Jewish people at those organizations far surpasses 2 percent. Don’t get me wrong – we need to support the general community as well as the Jewish community. I would only suggest that we consider making our Jewish organizations a priority because if we don’t, who else will?

In light of what we’ve recently seen in France and Ukraine as well as acts of anti- Semitism right here in the United States, it’s never been more important that we act as one community. Our strength comes from working together toward common goals. We simply don’t have the luxury of assuming someone else will do the work that needs to be done.

We’ve all heard about the 80/20 Rule. It’s the concept that 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work. I believe that number is more like 90/10 in our Jewish community. I try really hard to not keep going back to same volunteers over and over but sometimes there’s no other option. We really do need your help.

A person who rarely says no is one of my volunteer heroes, Steve Schwersky. I think you’ll be very impressed by our latest addition to Mark’s Mensches.

Steve has lived in Pinellas County for most of his life, having moved here from Boston in 1971 and working in the air conditioning industry.

While you may not know Steve from his picture, you may recognize him by his voice. For the past three years, Steve has been the co-host of WMNF’s Sunday Simcha, the only locally produced Jewish news and entertainment radio show in Tampa Bay.

There he covers a wide range of topics, including everything from anti-Israel propaganda on college campuses, media bias, and local and worldwide anti-Semitism; to local events for organizations such as the Federations, Hadassah and local synagogues. He also conducts interviews that have included the Israeli Consul General, Chaim Shacham, and Benjamin Anthony, from the organization Our Soldiers Speak.

“I’m the politics guy on the show,” notes Steve, adding, “The more discrimination I’ve seen all over has gotten me more involved and on a soapbox. The more I become involved, it’s like a snowball – the more I do.”

Steve has had a long history of community involvement that goes far beyond his work on Sunday Simcha. He first started by getting involved in his congregation, Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater. He served on the temple’s board for approximately 15 years and continues to remain active with the temple, currently sitting on the committee overseeing a significant renovation project that’s underway.

In addition, he is the current co-chair of the Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival, on the board of the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties and is a member of B’nai Brith.

Supporting Israel is especially important to Steve. He is a member of AIPAC, is co-chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), a committee of the Federation, which advocates for Israel and serves as a voice for the Jewish community, and works with Stand with Us, an advocacy group that supports the State of Israel in combatting bias. Steve was honored for his work by Israel Bonds.

“Israel has always been close to my heart. I had a craving to go for a lot of my life and then went five or six years ago. That had a lot to do with my incentive to advocate more,” he said.

His advocacy for Israel and the community at large has deep roots. “I attribute it to my upbringing and my parents. They were very involved in the synagogue and the community as well. Each was president of the men’s and women’s divisions of B’nai Brith. So, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I owe my values and strong ties to Judaism to my parents.”

Steve also shares this philosophy with his own children, son Jonah and daughter Jordyn. His daughter also advocates for Israel and is currently participating in a Masa internship program at the Jerusalem Post in Israel.

“It gives me a sense of pride to know that I’m doing my part, to speak my voice, to advocate for Israel and to speak out against anti-Semitism. I’m passionate about it. It’s almost like I don’t know any other way.”

So the next time you find yourself thinking you’re too busy, I hope you’ll remind yourself of all that Steve is doing and be inspired to “just say yes”!

If you’re interested in volunteer opportunities, we have plenty that you can learn about by contacting the Jewish Federation (727-530-3223 or marksegel@jewishpinellas.org.) We look forward to hearing from you.


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