When Elissa Ness first learned that she would be receiving The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore’s Carole Sibel Outstanding Fundraising Achievement Award, she couldn’t quite believe it.
“I was very surprised,” said Ness, 72, a member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. “It really is not like me to be the center of anything or to be in the spotlight, but honestly I was absolutely honored that they chose me for that.”
Ness’ interest in community volunteering has led her to do fundraising work for The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore since the 1980s. Over the years, she has also been involved with Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations of Maryland, the Macks Center for Jewish Education, Israel Bonds and more.
Ness lives in Reisterstown with her husband, Bob Ness. The couple has one son,
Growing up in Pikesville, Ness remembered everything from her high school to her neighborhood to be “probably 99 percent Jewish,” she said. She attended Hebrew school at Beth Jacob Synagogue, which has since merged with Beth Tfiloh Congregation.
She credits much of her Jewish experience growing up to her father, who immigrated from Poland at 5 years old.
“He was very, very religious, and again that’s where I received a lot of my Jewish experiences,” Ness said. “Basically, my love for Judaism and my connection to Judaism, and basically pretty much everything that I do, my volunteering, the importance of it, it all came from my father.”
Ness attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where she earned a B.A. in sociology, and she received her M.A. in public administration from George Washington University.
Ness previously worked as an analyst for the Social Security Administration, she said, focusing on national disability policy.
In the early 1980s, when Ness was in her 30s, she began getting involved in volunteer work, she said.
“Again, I had had a strong Jewish upbringing, and especially with my father, I knew that volunteering and helping and making a difference in the world and in people’s lives, that that was an important principle with Judaism,” Ness said. “I gravitated, when I started to have the time, towards these different organizations.”
Her community involvement has included serving as past president of both the Levindale Auxiliary, a long-term care facility and rehab center, and of the Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations of Maryland. Currently, she is on the boards of Associated Women and of the Macks Center for Jewish Education. She is also currently the deputy chair of the board of Israel Bond’s women’s division of Maryland, and she expects to be the chair by December of 2022. In addition, she is involved in fundraising for AIPAC and its educational programs.
But through all of her involvement with the community, she is most proud of receiving the Carole Sibel Outstanding Fundraising Achievement Award this past October. The award is given to those who are involved in The Associated’s fundraising activities for a significant period of time, Ness said. She also viewed it as recognition for her work to support and strengthen Jewish life and to ensure a vibrant Jewish community for the future.
The award came with a $1000 fund that could be earmarked for an Associated agency or project of Ness’ choosing, she said. She chose to designate it for CJE’s disability program.
Among other things, Ness credits her success as a fundraiser to her commitment to the objectives of The Associated and her capacity to forge strong interpersonal connections.
On Carole Sibel herself, Ness said, “She was a very, very dedicated and admired fundraiser and volunteer. And forever, she was committed to the values and principles of The Associated. It was such an honor, and it was so humbling, to actually receive this award and be associated, actually, with Carole.”