Making an Impact
In her roles as a partner in a law firm, JWRP City Leader, and mother of two, Sheryl Berkowitz wants to make the world a better place. As a lawyer who spends her days representing women in pharmaceutical Mass Tort and Class Action claims, Sheryl’s motto is, “Each case has a name, each name has a long story, and I want to be the very strong voice for that story.” As a JWRP City Leader, Sheryl is passionate about harnessing her South Florida sisters’ power to give back to their community. In our conversation, Sheryl shares what drives her giving spirit and the kind of impact she wants to make.
What first inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?
I had always felt a connection to Israel, but I hadn’t traveled there in a decade. I’m a busy lawyer and a single mom, and I wanted to regroup and explore my spiritual side. I was excited about the opportunity to reclaim myself on the JWRP’s first MOMentum Trip.
How did MOMentum impact you?
Thanks to MOMentum, I fell in love with Israel all over again and significantly deepened my connection to G-d. I enrolled my son in a Jewish day school and began attending synagogue more regularly. In order to recreate the feeling that I felt on Shabbat during MOMentum, I decided that I wanted to stay closer to home on Shabbat. So, instead of running to my friends’ homes to eat gourmet meals, I bit the bullet and finally learned how to cook. Since then, I’ve become a major entertainer and have hosted hundreds of people for Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
I’ve also had the opportunity to serve as a Madricha and a City Leader multiple times. Before we travel to Israel, our JWRP sisters get to know each other on a soul level so that they can experience MOMentum as soul sisters. When our JWRP sisters return from Israel, they feel inspired to give back. I love helping turn them into “Robin Hood-owitzes” by facilitating their desire to take action and to tackle some of the greatest issues that the Jewish community faces today.
What first inspired your professional work on behalf of others?
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to fight for the underdog. My grandparents had escaped from Europe in the nick of time and many of my friends’ parents and grandparents were Holocaust survivors. As a teenager, my dad was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and I was frustrated that I couldn’t help him.
When I went to law school, I knew that I wanted to help people. After working at a large law firm for a number of years, I became the associate director of Legal Services for Greater Miami and did legal work focused on homelessness, children’s rights, AIDs, and other avenues that supported the local indigent community. Today, I represent women and attain justice for their serious injuries related to pharmaceuticals and prosthetic devices.
How do you decide where to direct your philanthropic energies?
I’m always looking to make a real difference. I don’t want our support to be just a drop in the bucket; I want to locate a specific need with my JWRP sisters and be able to say, “We’ve got this.” For example, the Miami Kosher Food Bank approaches us for assistance at the beginning of each school year, so we created an annual “Back to School Drive” during which our JWRP sisters and their families bring new backpacks stuffed with school supplies for the Kosher Food Bank families. Before Passover, we buy tons of buckets filled with cleaning supplies to stock the Kosher Food Bank’s shelves for families’ Passover cleaning. We are a community-based group and it is our obligation and honor to give back. I believe that if everyone contributes a little, we can get a lot of things done.
I love that we’re building a team of women and their families who feel inspired to make a difference in the world. Ultimately, I know that our giving helps us more than it helps the people we give to. It truly gives me great joy to give.
I can’t thank the JWRP enough for all that is has given me, my family, and my “sistaz.” It feels great to support the JWRP by serving as a City Leader and giving my time and money. How does one begin to repay the JWRP for the life transformation it has offered to me?