Five Questions with Moish Tohn, executive director of Yeshiva Derech Hatorah
Campaign for Jewish Needs | REPAIR our World

In 2015, Moish Tohn led the transformation of Mosdos Ohr Hatorah into Yeshiva Derech Hatorah (YDT). Today YDT is a Federation beneficiary agency candidate and one of the shining examples of the legacy of respected community leader, Mendy Klein z”l, whom Moish called a ‘giant’ of a man.

How did the Federation assist in Mosdos’ transition to becoming YDT?

My mentor and friend, Mendy Klein, felt strongly that the Orthodox community needed to be part of the broader Jewish community. For our school to become more engaged with Jewish Cleveland, Mendy and I worked with the Jewish Federation of Cleveland and its educational arm, the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland to create a framework that would allow us to build and grow our school both from a curriculum and financial standpoint. When we started this process, we had 480 students. Next year, we’ll serve more than 750 children, with the ability to continue to grow. None of this would have been possible without the Federation. We cannot thank the entire Jewish community enough for their support.

Why did Mendy Klein feel so strongly that the Orthodox community needed to be more involved in Jewish Cleveland?

For Mendy, the fact that the Federation has always focused on education meant a tremendous amount. The continuity of Judaism is through education – our children are being taught the values and the ethics of the Torah. The Federation has always understood that – and, as a result, we have all been recipients of Campaign dollars at one point or another. The amount of time that they spent towards building up YDT is incredible.


“The Federation is the backbone of Jewish Cleveland. We are all the Federation. Be as invested in the community as you can be.”


How have you encouraged YDT families to be as passionate about Federation as you are?

Many of our families never knew how the Federation works. Our staff here has made it a priority to showcase all that the Federation is doing in our community. And now our YDT families have a more intimate knowledge of that. For example, who would have dreamed that any percentage of a school’s budget has to be spent on security? It’s not how we grew up, but it’s the reality that we’re living and it’s something we need to focus on. And thanks to Federation our schools and synagogues are secure. What Federation can accomplish through its size, its intellectual power, and its deep roots across the corners of our community is what keeps Cleveland what it is. The Federation is doing important work in Cleveland, St. Petersburg, Russia, and in Beit Shean, Israel. Looking forward, there’s so much opportunity for our local and global community and the Federation is there helping every step of the way.

What did it say about the YDT community that you were able to close more than 250 gifts – an impressive accomplishment – in our 2019 Campaign for Jewish Needs?

The credit really doesn’t go to me. I didn’t make 250 phone calls on my own. The YDT families so appreciate the support that our school has received from Federation that they wanted to find a way to give back. So, during last year’s Campaign for Jewish Needs, we had participation from everyone. Contributing to the Campaign is how we show appreciation. The truth is money is how the Federation is able to do what it does. All the great accomplishments all happen through Campaign dollars. We got that word out and our families made it happen by sending in what they could. But the ones who did the hard work were the parents, the teachers, the friends of Yeshiva Derech Hatorah – the credit goes to them. It was a tremendous vote of confidence by our school and our community in the hard work of the Federation. The fact that everyone was involved – from parents to the staff – shows that the orthodox community appreciates the Federation.

Why should people support the Campaign every year?

The Federation is the backbone of Jewish Cleveland. We are all the Federation. Be as invested in the community as you can be. It’s all about the federated giving model. There are a lot of organizations in the community that speak to us. But there are a lot of opportunities and a lot of important things in the community that I want to be a part of that I don’t even know about – and federated giving allows that to happen. There are many things that I don’t have the opportunity to be involved in, but I do if I’m involved in the Federation.

You make stories like this possible because of your support to the Jewish Federation of Cleveland's Campaign for Jewish Needs.


To learn more about our beneficiary agencies, contact Melanie Halvorson at mhalvorson@jcfcleve.org or 216-593-2868.