When Linda Schoenberg retired and sold her veterinary practice in 2016 to Dr. Jessi Pizzuli, she found herself with free time and an ongoing passion for helping others.
Though she still occasionally offers rescue services at Just Cats Hospital in South Euclid, Schoenberg spends most of her time in her community — with Esporta Fitness, the Jewish Genealogy Society of Cleveland, the National Fund Jew, NA’AMAT and its synagogue, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun. At the synagogue, she reads the Torah and the Haftorah. She is also certified in Pilates and teaches Silver Sneakers classes in the community.
Schoenberg has also mentored adult bat mitzvah students virtually through NA’AMAT USA, which she told the Cleveland Jewish News was “a major success.”
“Talk about satisfaction,” she said. “I think we had eight attendees, some of whom couldn’t read Hebrew.”
CJN: How did you get involved in these activities?
Schoenberg: My dad was a big JNF guy while I was growing up. One of the things I started doing when I opened my practice in 1988 was that if I was particularly attached to a particular client, I would plant a tree in memory of their pet. I’ve had people come in with tears in their eyes saying no one has ever done anything like this for them. And it just continued. This is how I discovered JNF.
Then a friend of mine put me in touch with NA’AMAT. Having lived in Israel for a year and having spent a few weeks there at least three times over the years, I thought this would suit me perfectly. I eventually landed on the national board and am currently recording secretary. With the Jewish Genealogical Society of Cleveland, past president Helen Wolf asked me to be the treasurer. I had never been great at genealogy so I was interested. I’m also treasurer of the Cleveland Academy of Veterinary Medicine.
CJN: What is your favorite thing about volunteering?
Schoenberg: This was all bashert (it was supposed to be) for me. I do it out of the goodness of my heart. But I also do it somewhat selfishly because it allows me to help others while enriching my own life. I get so many nachas (pride or gratification) from seeing people get stronger in my fitness classes. They say they can’t do it, and then they do it. I am amazed. We have so much fun as a group.
CJN: Why is volunteering an important part of your life?
Schoenberg: I think bringing joy and helping others while having a positive impact on their lives is what is so important to me.
CJN: Why should other people consider volunteering in retirement?
Schoenberg: It gives you a sense of community, especially with COVID-19 and isolation. Even with Zoom, which everyone thought was the worst thing in the world, I had people come to my classes from California, Nevada and Florida. We didn’t know how Zoom could bring people together. That, to me, says a lot. The more people can see and interact with other people, the stronger their mental and emotional state remains. These are really difficult times.
CJN: Do you have any advice for other seniors who want to start their volunteer journey?
Schoenberg: They should talk to their friends and find out if any of them are volunteering and where. If there’s any type of organization they’ve been involved with or even their synagogue, or with their career, they should look there. If they can drive and are comfortable doing so, they might even do meal delivery. You see how blessed you are. Anything you can do is meaningful, impactful, and satisfying. People care – they just need the opportunity to show it.
Besides volunteering, Schoenberg said if her husband’s health was better, the couple would travel as they pleased. Before the pandemic, she said their last trip started in Croatia with their friends. They then flew to Athens in Greece and then stayed on the island of Crete.
“My daughter comes to visit me several times a year, and otherwise I stay home,” she said. “So I have plenty of time to do things locally.”