This is the second post in a series highlighting women who are doing great work in our local Jewish community.
Abra Annes Sills is a vibrant and passionately dedicated Jewish community leader. We are fortunate to welcome Abra as the incoming Women’s Philanthropy Campaign Chair. She is currently a member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet, and a new Lion of Judah.
Women’s Philanthropy: What motivates you to be involved in the local Jewish community?
Abra Annes Sills: I go about my daily life, doing normal working mom things. I go to meetings, send emails, get my daughter to school, grocery shop, run errands; I’m sure your life is quite similar. Most days I don’t stop to think about people outside my circle of family of friends, certainly not people I’ve never met. However, the Federation DOES. The Federation’s entire job is to think about and remember these people for me. Through my donation, which takes 5 minutes of one day, out of 365 days, I feel good for the rest of the year. When I receive a distressing update about the situation in Israel where 45 rockets have been fired overnight, I take comfort in knowing that a portion of my gift to the Federation goes toward funding a trauma center and bomb shelters in these hard hit areas. I know that Israeli families like mine are being taken care of, because of my one decision each year.
WP: What do you gain personally from giving back?
Abra: Everything! I will forever be grateful to the Federation for giving me EVERYTHING and I mean everything in my life. My first job, my 4 best friends, my husband, a tight network of people in a new place, an opportunity to travel to Cuba, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Israel, and the opportunity to be part of something greater.
WP: Would you care to share a challenge you have overcome that has changed or inspired you?
Abra: There was period of time in my life where I didn’t want to be Jewish and was ashamed and embarrassed by who I was. I dismissed my heritage and upbringing for many years before going to work on a cruise ship. Onboard, I was the only Jewish crew member. For a few months it was fine, but then September rolled around. I asked the Cruise Director (responsible for all onboard activities) if there was anything happening for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the answer was ‘no.’ However, he gave me permission to do whatever “Jew stuff” I wanted. It was then that it was up to me. If anything Jewish was going to happen onboard that ship, I was going to make it happen. It started small, with a small gathering on Rosh Hashanah of Jewish passengers and myself saying the prayers over apples and honey, candles and round challah (the recipe for which I had to print out and draw pictures for the pastry chef to bake onboard) to a huge 500 person multi-day Chanukah celebration. I learned that not only did I want Judaism in my life, but I needed the community that came with it. When I returned to dry land, I channeled this energy and passion into the Federation. My first gift of $250 in 2007 was the best investment I ever made. 7 years later, I am a member of National Young Leadership Cabinet, Women’s Philanthropy Campaign Chair, and a Lion of Judah.