My Journey to Jewish community | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

My Journey to Jewish community 


I moved to Milwaukee in my mid-20s, for love, and knew very few Jews for the first three years. I worked in the nonprofit sector and we lived on the east side of Milwaukee. 

When I was pregnant with my first child, I started swimming at the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, just like my dad did at the JCC in Philadelphia, where I grew up. When my first child, Shira, was two years old, I started taking her to the JCC for kid classes like gym with Lenny, and Mom and me Shabbat class with Idy Goodman on Friday mornings. This was when the JCC started to become a central institution in the life of our family. My husband, Michael, and Shira and I would all go to the JCC together on Sunday afternoons. That is where we met some dear friends who have become like family, and we celebrate Thanksgiving and Pesach with them to this day. 

Sharon Grinker

Eventually we had that important school decision to make, and we decided to send Shira to first grade at Milwaukee Jewish Day School. MJDS holds a special place in the hearts of many members of the Jewish community, and when my second child was graduating, it took me his entire eighth grade year to adjust to the fact that I would no longer have that concrete daily relationship with MJDS. I have adjusted, but I have not let go.   

At MJDS, I was introduced to more of Jewish Milwaukee and this is when I was originally invited to be a part of the Women’s Philanthropy Board. I was assigned a mentor surprisingly my “Mom and Me” Shabbat class teacher, Idy Goodman. Through talking with Idy, I came to understand the importance of Federation in supporting the organizations that had become an important part of my family’s daily life. I gained a new appreciation for the work of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and the important role that it plays for many crucial organizations in Milwaukee.   

Women’s Philanthropy was my stepping stone to other Federation programs. Ultimately, I had an opportunity to join the Jewish Community Relations Council, which is a great fit for me as it combines my nonprofit interests and my Jewish community work to build bridges and work in partnership throughout the City.   

Around the same time, I happened to meet the new shlicha (cultural emissary) who had just arrived in Milwaukee for her first term, Amit Zehavi, while I was hanging around on the playground at MJDS. We became close friends and Amit pulled me into the Schlichut Committee, part of the Israel Center Department of the Federation.  This has also been an amazing experience. My main connection to Israel while growing up was putting quarters into the metal boxes to plant trees. Through my involvement with this committee, I have learned much more about Israel and Israelis. We hosted a shin-shin (young cultural emissary) a year and half ago and my daughter is in Israel right now on a gap semester program. Our family now has a real connection to Israel and I am so appreciative of the Federation’s commitment to bringing Israel to the Jewish Milwaukee community.   

I now see Federation as a critical vehicle in the Jewish community for the cultural, religious and educational life of Jewish Milwaukee. Its programs and institutions provide an incredible framework to bring people together to learn, observe and teach about our rich heritage. For me it is an opportunity to work on important issues in the larger community from a Jewish lens, in partnership with other members of the Jewish community. 

I feel very fortunate to be a part of this organization today. Especially in this turbulent economic time, I’m grateful to support the important work of Federation throughout our community and in Israel.   

The Federation is in the midst of its 2021 Annual Campaign which provides crucial support to the programs and services that have been an important part of my family’s life for so many years. Please donate generously at so Federation can continue to make a difference for all Jewish Milwaukeeans just as it has for my family and me and our entire community.