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Alyssa and Jonathan Muhlendorf Create a Jewish Legacy Ohef Sholom

Alyssa and Jonathan Muhlendorf Create a Jewish Legacy Ohef Sholom

Alyssa and Jonathan Muhlendorf believe in sharing what they have. Whether that's the laughter and beauty of their children, Elijah and Nyla, their professional expertise, their time, or their commitment to the Tidewater Jewish community, if there's a way, this young couple will do their best to make a difference.

Recently, they established the Alyssa and Jonathan Muhlendorf Family Fund with the Tidewater Jewish Foundation that benefits Ohef Sholom Temple and the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

"There are a whole host of reasons why we wanted to do this," Alyssa explains. "We both come from a legacy of providing for our community, either through volunteerism or financially." Jonathan's mother and father, Diane and Ken Muhlendorf, have volunteered for and donated to various Jewish organizations throughout Jonathan's life. Ken currently serves on the board of Jewish Family Service. "My parents volunteered their time and their resources my entire life. It's just a natural thing that we feel like we're modeling for our own children."

Jonathan grew up in Norfolk, around the corner from the Jewish Community Center. He attended the pre-school there and counts some of those classmates among his closest friends today. As a youth, Jonathan was a frequent visitor at Beth Sholom Home, where his beloved grandfather, Sam Gould*, lived for 15 years.

The daughter of David and Karen Jorgenson, Alyssa moved frequently during her childhood, due to her father's job as a professor and his work in environmental science. Most of her family lives in the Seattle, WA area.

The young couple met in 2003 in Washington, D.C. Alyssa worked on Capitol Hill in international human rights, and Jonathan worked for a financial planning firm. While dating, they discussed their values and shared ideals of Tikun Olam, repairing the world and helping others. It was, and continues to be, an important part of their lives.

Their 2005 wedding ceremony in Seattle was co-officiated by a rabbi and contained traditional Jewish elements although Alyssa, whose family is Lutheran, had not yet made the decision to become Jewish. That would come soon, though. Shortly before their wedding, Jonathan and Alyssa moved to Norfolk. Alyssa transitioned to the field of social work and began working as the Special Needs Case Manager at Jewish Family Service. Her experience with the staff, clients, and agency's mission solidified Alyssa's decision to convert and she did so in 2007.

"The job at JFS is where the cornerstone of my Jewish experience really began," Alyssa says. "I had this amazing view into what the Jewish community was doing for people and it connected me immediately to how active this community is for people who have the greatest needs. I really learned what it was like to be Jewish while I worked there."

Although working and raising their family takes a considerable amount of their time, Jonathan and Alyssa have committed to being a part of the Jewish community and living a Jewish life, faithfully celebrating Shabbat, holidays and festivals. Members of Ohef Sholom Temple, the couple co-chairs the Young Adult Committee and Alyssa is a board member. She helped start the Ohef Sholom Temple interfaith committee three years ago. The Muhlendorfs are also involved in the UJFT's Tidewater Couples Project, and are taking pleasure in learning more about the different agencies and organizations that operate under the Federation. In addition to all these commitments, Jonathan is assisting Ohef Sholom Temple and Tidewater Jewish Foundation with their ongoing planned giving initiatives.

Jonathan says it just made sense that if he was going to ask people to help the community, he and Alyssa step up and create their own Jewish legacy. The Muhlendorfs established their fund using life insurance policies.

"The great part about our gift is that it doesn't take a lot of current resources to create a tremendous amount of future resources," says Jonathan. "We want to show our generation that they can be involved today in planning for the future, and they don't have to be super wealthy to make a difference."

Jonathan smiles and nods in agreement as Alyssa adds, "It's really important to us for our children to know if we have enough to eat, if we have a roof over our heads and there's someone that doesn't, we try to help them in whatever way we can. We feel like if we can help, in even a small way, we want to be able to do it."

Alyssa & Jonathan Muhlendorf: This story was written in 2012.

For more information about how you too may Create a Jewish Legacy, please call or email Scott Kaplan President and CEO with the Tidewater Jewish Foundation at 757-965-6111 or skaplan@ujft.org.


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