We are so proud that Jewish Women International www.jwi.org has chosen Renee to be their online HERo of the month!
Jewish HERo – Renee Finn
Founding president of MetroWest Jewish Day School
When Renee Finn met MIT student Steve during her freshman year at Boston University, she didn’t image he would become her husband and the father of her children, let alone that the two would become partners in Jewish communal leadership and one day found a renowned Jewish Day school in the Massachusetts suburbs they would come to call home.
In 1999 the Finns founded MetroWest Jewish Day School (MWJDS) – the first Jewish day school in the Metrowest suburbs of Boston – with inspiration from Renee’s experience as an adult learner in the Me’ah program the year before. (Me’ah is 100 hours of serious adult Jewish learning taught over two years, provided in Finn’s area by Boston’s Hebrew College with support from the local Federation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies.)
“I had waited until the Me’ah program was in MetroWest so that I could learn in my community,” says Finn. “It was important. During the first 10 weeks, we studied the most ancient biblical times, and I had a vision – of ordinary people going back to where the shards and ashes remained after the destruction of the temple, and not knowing why they were compelled to do it, but picking up the pieces and carrying them into Diaspora. I had at that point a very strong visual image of our people doing this over time immemorial. We have been carrying this for years, a sense of time and space. It’s our tradition and our values. We plant them were we go.”
It could be said that Finn has been passionate about Jewish education since she became the first female to read from the Torah as a bat mitzvah in her hometown of Millburn, N.J. An active member of Temple Beth Sholom, she has served on the boards of directors of Jewish Family Service of MetroWest and Combined Jewish Philanthropies. As a resident of Framingham, Mass. for more than 30 years, Finn has also served as a Town Meeting representative, president of a public school PTO, and as an incorporator of the Framingham Education Foundation.
A retired clinical audiologist with CCC designation from the American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA), Finn practiced at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Newton Wellesley Hospital for 26 years. Steve is a bona fide rocket scientist with a distinguished career as a lecturer and principal research scientist at MIT, senior staff member at Lincoln Labs, and a strategic venture partner in numerous startup companies – experience that proved useful in getting the new MetroWest Jewish Day School off the ground.
“Renée will do anything for anyone,” says Jan Moidel Schwartz, director of development at MWJDS. “She’ll bring a meal to a shiva home, take a friend to the doctor, stuff envelopes…and pull weeds! I am in awe of what she has accomplished. Her ability to inspire, build consensus and work for a common mission makes her my hero!”
This fall the Finns will be honored by the Framingham community for their vision and commitment to Jewish continuity, and for engaging the dedicated professionals, donors and volunteers who have joined them to create and nurture Jewish day school in Metrowest. They both continue to serve on the MWJDS board of directors, focusing now on institutional development.
Renee Finn at MWJDS Mitzvah Day, an initiative to give back to the Framingham community. Renée is a master gardener and loves the project that enhances the beauty of the school’s garden.
Originally published in Jewish Woman magazine www.jwmag.org