When former board chairman Michael Siegal of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland asked Erica Starrfield to lead the organization’s marketing and communications committee in 2011, she initially needed some time to think about it.
Ms. Starrfield, who has worked as marketing manager of Nestle USA in Solon since 2005, recalled her dilemma. “I had a one-year-old and a four-year-old. I hemmed and hawed if this was the right time in my life.”
She ultimately decided to accept the challenge of the volunteer leadership position. “I nervously said yes.” And she has never looked back.
Ms. Starrfield, who resides in Pepper Pike where she grew up, recently received the Federation’s 2015 Bennett and Donna Yanowitz Leadership Award. The award honors an outstanding young individual who has demonstrated commitment, involvement and leadership within Cleveland’s Jewish community.
“I have chosen to be actively involved in the Jewish community because it makes me feel more whole, fulfilling a personal desire to be a part of something greater than myself,” Ms. Starrfield, 38, said upon receiving the award. “And taking leadership roles is a way to enrich experiences more deeply. It adds more meaning to my life and I hope that as my children get older, it is something they too will find valuable.”
During her tenure, Ms. Starrfield’s committee led the Federation’s three-year initiative on branding, which has become a nationally recognized model for other Jewish federations around the country.
“Organizations are brands just as much as consumer packaged goods,” reflected Ms. Starrfield, who has her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s in business administration from Georgetown University. “A brand has to be more than a laundry list of what an organization does. It is the soul of the organization. It’s not a logo, but a promise of the benefits it brings.”
The initiative started with defining the Federation’s role, she said. The Federation supports local, national and international partner agencies that care for Jews wherever they are – in Cleveland, Israel and 70 countries around the globe.
“The essence of the Federation’s brand is that it is the Jewish community’s cornerstone,” she said.
In defining the brand, the marketing committee worked with lay leaders and staff throughout the Federation. “Everyone had to be on board. We did a lot of listening. We considered all the programs that the Federation supports. And we looked at why they do it, which is to make sure that no one is left behind and that everyone is cared for. What I’m most proud of is that we built the brand as a community.”
Ms. Starrfield credits Dahlia Fisher, the Federation’s director of marketing and communications, for bringing the brand to life.
“By defining the brand, who we are and why we do it, we established the roots,” Ms. Starrfield said. The brand comes to life in the way the Federation communicates. “That’s the ‘leaves and flowers’ that everyone sees and experiences.” These include everything from the Federation’s literature and website to its “Cleveland (heart) Israel” buttons and Team Federation T-shirts.
Ms. Starrfield said she became involved in Jewish communal leadership through the BBYO youth organization while attending Orange High School. She served as the Ohio Northern Region’s n’siah (president) during her senior year, 1994-1995. “It had a huge impact on my life and who I am today,” she reflected.
After working for nonprofit organizations, attending graduate school and interning at Warner Bros. in Burbank, Calif., Ms. Starrfield returned to the Cleveland area in 2005 and began working in marketing at Nestle.
While she has completed her tenure as chair, Ms. Starrfield continues to be an active member of the marketing and communications committee, as well as serving on the Federation’s strategic planning committee and board of trustees. She is also involved in the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy, which aims to empower women to be community leaders.
Her involvement extends beyond the Federation. She is a graduate of the Anti-Defamation League Glass Leadership Institute and sits on the board of directors at Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike.
Her mother Jan Biederman and step-father Jerry Herman reside in Pepper Pike, and her father Alan Greenstein now lives in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Seeing the Jewish community of Cleveland thrive is something for which I have tremendous passion,” Ms. Starrfield said. “It is the community that welcomed my grandparents and great-grandparents during World War II, the community that nurtured me through youth group programming into a confident young adult, and the community in which I am proud to raise my children. I want to see the Jewish community of Cleveland continue to prosper so that it can remain the place that brings the support and enjoyment we have come to know it for.”
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