Alene G. Sussman is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Jewish Community Foundation (MN JCF) and Senior Director of Minneapolis Jewish Federation Charitable Gift Planning. MN JCF helps its fund holders give through a Jewish lens and promotes the concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world). In 2022, MN JCF helped its fund holders send $7.3 million out to causes and organizations (both Jewish and non-Jewish) all around the world.
Alene is a former in-house attorney at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and prior to that practiced at the law firm of Dorsey and Whitney LLP. She graduated from Howard University School of Law and received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Columbia University.
She volunteers for a variety of non-profits around the Twin Cities in the areas of development and fundraising, and grant making, including on the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Co-Chairs the Arboretum Annual Gala Committee, and Temple Israel (variety of committees).
She loves spending time with her son and husband, foodstagramming, traveling, and is a cautiously optimistic/perennially disappointed Minnesota Vikings fan.
As a young girl or teenager, what profession interested you and why?
When I was young, I was a very serious tennis player and was a huge fan of football (Skol Vikings!), basketball, and hockey. Although I didn’t know it at the time, sports was a way for me to bond with other girls, learn important life lessons such as teamwork, putting forth your best effort, learning to lose (gracefully), and pushing yourself beyond you comfort zone toward a goal. My inspiration came not just because I came from multiple generations of women athletes, but also because I thought it would be so cool to be a woman working in sports (when there weren’t many at the time) and challenging that industry. I did end up doing every college internship in something in the sports industry and my very first job post-college was in sports management.
If you had applied for an ABF grant in your youth, what type of activity or experience would you have pursued?
I had so many interests as a kid, so it’s difficult to choose. That being said, just knowing ABF provided financial support to be able to access an opportunity I wouldn’t perhaps otherwise have, and would have received mentorship on top of that, would have meant the world to me.
What is one of the most rewarding aspects of your profession?
I am so fortunate to be in my dream job where I get to advise some of our most generous community members on where to give their money to in pursuit of what is meaningful to them, and to connect community needs with those fund holders’ passions.
My career has not been linear and I have worked in many industries: sports management, marketing, law, and philanthropy. But the one thread common to all of those experiences has been my love to connect with people, learning their story, understand what they care about, and help make connections for them. Having the privilege of people sharing their passions, their inspiration, and how they want to make an impact and change in the world is so inspiring and meaningful. It fuels me every day.
Describe an accomplishment that you are very proud of and why OR describe a challenge that you’ve overcome.
As girls and women, we often are molded by family, friends, and society’s expectations and stereotypes of who we should be and how we should move through the world. Not to date myself, but I grew up at a time where sexism likely impacted and impeded girls’ growth, self-esteem, and women’s professional opportunities and trajectory. Over many years and many experiences, I made incremental and conscious decisions along the way to try and just be myself and not be constrained by others’ perceptions of who I am and who I should be. It took a lot to get to that level of confidence in myself, and to not try to mold myself into what society says I should be.
What has been instrumental to your professional success?
I’m a big believer in the concept that something is meant to be. Even when the job I was in wasn’t fulfilling me, or my skills were not quite a match for the role, I never doubted that things would work out.
Also, approaching life and situations with an open mind, being flexible and adaptable, as well as figuring out how to get around any roadblocks that were put in front of me.
Most of all, showing gratitude, to those who teach me, to those who support me, to those who came before me and paved the way whether family, friends, colleagues, or community.
What is a personal (outside of work) accomplishment that you are proud of?
Thanking people, whether family or friends, who have supported me and uplifted me in small to large ways. Showing gratitude feels so fulfilling!
What should girls know about your story of success?
Never stop believing in yourself and having the confidence to be yourself and be authentic. Don’t worry about what others think of you. People will appreciate and love you for who you are.
Why do you support the Ann Bancroft Foundation? In your experience, what value does ABF offer girls across Minnesota?
Although much progress has been made since I was growing up, gender inequality still exists and there remains so much opportunity for girls to have a chance to live their dream and reach their full potential. ABF provides that chance for the trajectory of a girl’s life to be shifted upwards.
ABF grants cause a ripple effect of good. Have you witnessed this ripple effect?
Absolutely! Paying it forward is one of the best investments society can make in its future.
Lastly, why should others join the ABF PowHER Partners this October and support this campaign?
Ann herself is such an incredible inspiration: her story, her impact, and accomplishments. ABF uses that spirit and inspiration to support girls and their dreams in a thoughtful and holistic approach. Receiving a grant allows them the financial access to their chosen experience, and the mentorship provides lifelong guidance and support, which is just as, if not more, valuable than the grant itself.