by Naomi Adler
President & CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
Right now in America, we’re living in a unique moment of rising women’s empowerment. One only needs to look at the recent election to see the ways in which women have surged forward as advocates, voters and, at last, elected officials. And yet, despite the rallying cry for female unity, it’s been challenging for many Jewish women to find a comfortable space in this landscape. In particular, allegations of anti-Semitism within the solidarity movement have been painful, confusing and — given the historic contributions of Jewish women to the American feminist movement — inexcusable.
Jewish women know a thing or two about sisterhood. Over the past century, synagogue groups and national non-profit organizations have traditionally been where like-minded women unite to promote social change and provide community support. That tradition continues in Jewish Federation’s own warm and welcoming sisterhoods: Women’s Philanthropy and Women of Vision. In these groups every woman has a voice and can become a leader, and has the ability to ignite real social change through volunteerism, leadership development training and, of course, charitable giving.
For example, Women’s Philanthropy’s annual Food Sort helps organize and supply 40,000 pounds of nourishment to our communities’ most vulnerable. Women of Vision gives grants each year to organizations dedicated to ending scourges like sex trafficking, domestic violence and sexism. And our communities’ most dedicated women, our Lions of Judah, make significant donations of at least $5,000 each year to our Jewish Community Fund so that our Jewish Federation can continue supporting our communities locally, in Israel and around the world. This year Lions all over the world are celebrating 25 years of this incredible force, and inspiring Lions everywhere to celebrate as well by creating their own Lion of Judah Endowment funds to ensure our communities’ vibrant future.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of seeing the power of women on full display at the Jewish Federations of North America’s International Lion of Judah Conference. In Hollywood, Florida, 1,400 women came together from across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Israel for three days of talking tachlis (truth) about our work and how to inspire even more tzedakah (charity). In addition, I was delighted to be joined there by female CEOs of other Jewish Federations, and we celebrated our growing numbers: 55 women now lead Jewish Federations. At the conference, the group honored our very own Greater Philadelphia change-maker Lyn Neff, founder of our Mitzvah Food pantries; and by weekend’s end had raised an astounding $35.9 million to support Jewish communities worldwide. The Lions’ dynamism truly embodied one of the weekend’s slogans: “One strong woman makes a difference, thousands change the world.”
Sisterhood is powerful. And at this critical moment in time, I am so honored to be part of our local efforts, as we work everyday to create inclusive spaces for those intent on making a difference.