Phil Donahue changed Jessica Abo’s life.
At 9, living in Bethlehem, Pa., Abo was watching the pioneer talk show host on TV. A young guest on the show, in tears, was consoled by the end of the show by a psychologist.
Abo decided she would follow in the footsteps of Donahue, by becoming a journalist; and a psychologist of sorts, by helping other people.
As a reporter-anchor on NY1 News, and as a fundraiser-event organizer for several worthy causes, she does both. Her website describes her as “Journalist by day, entrepreneur by choice.”
A New Yorker since 2007, USY (United Synagogue Youth) veteran, corporate consultant and UJA-Federation volunteer, Abo has coordinated events for “at least a dozen” organizations, raising “close to a half million dollars” (recipients include Chabad of Thailand and the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation, the latter in memory of her friend’s daughter, Ayelet Galena), run 52.4 miles (two marathons, in honor of sick children she’d befriended), and produced a documentary on the 60th anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation.
The granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and of grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, she grew up hearing stories “that made me realize how fortunate I was” to grow up in comfort.
As a public speaker, Abo frequently appears before teenage audiences, telling them of challenges she’s overcome. “The perfect-looking life,” she tells the teens, “isn’t always perfect.”
Actress: A Screen Actors Guild member, Abo has had roles in a handful of TV shows and movies, including “Gossip Girl” (TV) and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” a movie. In each, she’s played a reporter-anchorwoman, essentially portraying herself.
And author: She and friend Richard Bernstein, a disabilities lawyer in Michigan, are working on a book about overcoming obstacles. Bernstein is blind. The book discusses situations each has faced, like dealing with bullies and facing an audience neither can see.