Women of Vision is pleased to share updates and topical reflections in the following Summer Newsletter.
A Note from Manager, Iris Leon
With mixed emotions, I am leaving my role as Manager of Women of Vision. My last day will be Tuesday, July 28th. Working with you has been a privilege and I admire your collective tenacity, passion, and commitment to social change. I have always said that this was the right job at the right time in my life. As our family has recently grown, the time has come to pursue other opportunities that will nurture that growth.
Women of Vision is a special program that occupies a unique space in the work of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. I am confident that you’ll continue to grow and inspire change in members and the women and girls directly impacted by the grants and programs.
I am immeasurable grateful for how and when Women of Vision intersected with my life and career; I truly can’t express the depth of that gratitude. Perhaps we will intersect again. Until then, be well, stay safe, and continue flourishing.
2020-2021 Women of Vision Leadership
We are pleased to present Executive Committee appointments effective September 1, 2020 (list current as of 7/21/20)
Chair: Mindy Fortin
Chair-Elect: Carly Zimmerman
Grants Chairs: Amy Cohen, Carly Zimmerman
Advancement Chairs: Marcy Bacine, Penni Blaskey, Joy Gordon
Program Chairs: Mary Relles, Rabbi Lynnda Targan
Advocacy Chairs: Bonnie-Kay Marks, Karen Model
Evaluation Chairs: Andi Barsky, Susan Raynor
Governance Chairs: Tracy Ginsburg, Laura Spain
Sally Cooper Bleznak, Founder and Chair Emerita
Gladys B. Bernstein, ex officio
Annabelle Fishman, ex officio
Thanks to those members who voted on the slate of grants this year and to the Grant Review Committee for their hard work in vetting proposals. We are pleased to present next year’s domestic grant awards.
Program: Sustaining Dinah
Amount Requested (Year 1): $20,000
Program Budget (Year 1): $50,000
Amount Requested (Year 2): $20,000
Program Budget (Year 2): $50,000
Dinah’s mission is to eliminate domestic abuse in the Jewish Community of Greater Philadelphia by providing quality legal services to survivors of abuse and raising awareness about domestic abuse therein. Women of Vision is currently supporting Dinah with a grant to launch their Community Ally Training Program and the grant is in year 2 of 2.
Having formally launched in 2015, Dinah is looking to mature to the next level of growth through increased organizational and financial sustainability. Dinah is requesting funding from Women of Vision to increase organizational capacity, specifically by hiring a bookkeeper. Hiring this position would enable their executive director to devote more time to community and volunteer outreach, education, and fundraising. With additional time strategically allocated, Dinah would have more impact on definitions, behavior, engagement and policies surrounding domestic abuse in our local Jewish community. Consequently, domestic abuse will be more widely recognized as the common problem it is, and more survivors will seek legal assistance. Rabbis and other communal leaders will be encouraged to discuss domestic abuse openly, helping to break the silence and ignorance that surrounds it and keeps its survivors isolated and detached from the help they need.
Program: Visionary Women
Amount Requested (Year 1): $15,000
Program Budget (Year 1): $21,700
Amount Requested (Year 2): $15,000
Program Budget (Year 2): $22,250
Women of Vision seeded Visionary Women with two consecutive one-year grants in 2017 and 2018. Visionary Women is an intergenerational, interfaith program for women ages 16 to 90+ engaging issues at the intersection of religion, gender, and social justice. Through this program, Interfaith Philadelphia strives to equip women leaders in Greater Philadelphia with the skills and experiences needed to advocate for themselves and others across lines of religious difference and cultivate a more just and collaborative society. Visionary Women meet over the course of six months, for three hours once per month. These sessions offer immersion in five religious settings over time, and draw on peer-to-peer learning to increase religious literacy, build relationships across generations and faith traditions, and support the development of leadership and advocacy skills. The 2020-2021 program year will pilot two tracks, one for new participants and one for alumnae of the program who are interested in deepening their skills to lead interfaith engagement in their own faith communities, workplaces, neighborhoods, and civic spaces.
Program: jGirls Magazine Girls Empowerment Program
Amount Requested (Year 1): $30,000
Program Budget (Year 1): $397,725
Amount Requested (Year 2): $30,000
Program Budget (Year 2): $442,064
jGirls Magazine is an innovative online community written by and for self-identifying Jewish girls, ages 13-19, across all backgrounds. This platform enables girls to share their voices with the world and each other, and the space to hone communication skills, explore identities, talk across difference, and engage with a wide circle of peers on their own terms. jGirls Magazine raises the capabilities, self-image and status of Jewish girls. In doing so, jGirls serves as a pipeline to a cohort of empowered, committed female Jewish community and institutional leaders. Thus, jGirls effects a shift in engagement, promotes gender diversity at the leadership level, and improves the status of Jewish women and girls in our community and beyond. With skills, tools, confidence and networks, and trained to view the world through a Jewish feminist lens, these girls/young women are empowered to move into leadership roles in Jewish institutional spaces. This positions them to create long-term social change by enforcing an organizational culture of respect and consent, which will impact a wider community culture influenced by these values.
From Shana Weiner, Executive Director of Dinah
We at Dinah continue to be grateful for the support of Women of Vision, especially during this extraordinarily challenging time. The multifaceted impact of the global pandemic has put women at greater risk for intimate partner violence while sharply curtailing safety measures and other resources. Consequently, we recognize that the need for our services is greater than ever. Fortunately, in part due to our largely virtual operation, we are still able to serve our community and meet the expectations of our donors. Though most court functions are temporarily suspended, we have continued to work with clients, preparing them for upcoming hearings, and helping them find affordable legal assistance. We are partnering with the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society to provide microgrants to clients experiencing financial need caused by the pandemic, on top of those stresses they are experiencing as a result of financial abuse.
Internally, Dinah has engaged two summer interns, one a student at the University of Pennsylvania and the other a student at Brandeis University. Both have proven invaluable to Dinah, writing blogs, constructing new educational programming and supporting our social media outreach. Meanwhile, our Founder/Executive Director, Shana Weiner has launched a new monthly newsletter (you can join our listserv here: https://mailchi.mp/6cf422281052/dinahnewsletter), and is updating our website. Most significantly, we are currently working to create an online, on demand, version of our signature initiative, Community Advocate Training Program, which WOV supports. This new version of the workshop will not only allow training during the pandemic, but extend our reach more generally and become a permanent offering in support of our continuing efforts to train and recruit volunteer attorneys.
JCRC Spotlight: A Jewish Voice in Challenging Times
From Arlene Fickler, Chair of the JCRC & Women of Vision member
The Jewish Community Relations Council is the community relations, government affairs, and public policy advocacy arm of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. While our work prioritizes Israel advocacy and combatting anti-Semitism, JCRC’s agenda addresses a broad panoply of issues seeking to foster a just and pluralistic society in which the Jewish community and other communities of faith and ethnicity are secure and free to flourish.
The confluence of unprecedented events over the last five months underscores the need for a multi-dimensional Jewish communal agenda. The COVID-19 pandemic not only poses concerns about health and safety but has had additional ramifications that have left millions unemployed and countless businesses in extremis; children of all ages, from the youngest preschoolers to college and graduate students, unable to attend schools or camps; and too many people without regular access to food and at risk of becoming homeless. These stressful conditions unleashed previously unvoiced bigotry – against Asians, immigrants, Blacks, and Jews. Contemporaneously, the killing of George Floyd ripped the scab from the festering wound of systemic racism, unleashing nationwide protests against inequities in our criminal justice system, housing, education, employment, and healthcare. Unfortunately, some of those protests have themselves given voice to anti-Semitic tropes.
JCRC has sought to respond promptly to these developments with educational programming, legislative advocacy, and strengthened relationships with other communities of faith and color. We have sponsored a Town Hall with our Black legislators, an Interfaith Vigil with diverse clergy, communal Conversations about Racism, and a webinar about Voting during the Pandemic. We have advocated, through action alerts and direct conversations with our elected representatives, about the stimulus legislation, criminal justice reform, and legislation to address all forms of bigotry. We have created working groups to focus on civic engagement, combatting racism, and fighting hunger. We look forward to working with the Women of Vision on all these issues and we would welcome your individual participation in our committees and working groups.
Civil Rights Reflection
From Renée Sackey, Past Chair
I came of age in the 1960s and I remember vividly the Freedom Riders, the Voting Rights Act, the race riots, the Vietnam War, and the feeling of Us against Them that pervaded so much of our conversations. So when I first heard about the Civil Rights Mission, I didn’t hesitate to sign up. And let me tell you it was the most one of the most moving trips I’ve ever experienced.
Coming on the eve of MLK weekend, it had particular significance. About 40 of us started in Atlanta, gathering at the grounds of the Martin Luther King Memorial on Sunday morning, January 12. Our guide, Billy Planer, a native of Atlanta, set the stage by sitting us down outside the Ebenezer Baptist Church and telling us the story of Atlanta’s growth and the discrimination both subtle and overt. Subtle in that the city leaders built the interstate highway to cut off a prosperous African-American community from the rest of the city, which subsequently led to the neighborhood’s decline. Overt through the story of Leo Frank, a New York Jew who married into a prominent Jewish Family in Atlanta. Leo Frank managed the family’s pencil factory and was accused and convicted of raping and murdering one of the factory workers. It was a crime he didn’t commit yet he was brutally dragged from his prison cell and lynched. It was Fear of the Other that motivated this lynching.
Discrimination has no boundaries, only victims. After listening to Leo Frank’s story, we had the honor of attending Sunday services at the Ebenezer Baptist church. It was joyful, engaging, uplifting, and soulful and reminded each of us—black and white, Jews and Christians—of the bonds we share. We paid tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. whose memorial lies in the shadows of the church where he, his father and grandfather preached.
Then it was off to Montgomery, AL where had dinner at the reform temple and heard about the decline of the Jewish population as generations left for college never to return, and business after business closed. Sad how once prosperous communities have suffered over the years.
The highlights of visiting Montgomery were learning about the birth of the Civil Rights movement and the important role that Rosa Parks played in kicking off the Montgomery Bus boycott when she refused to give up her seat to a white man. We visited the Rosa Parks Museum where they re-enacted the incident and her arrest. I felt as if I were experiencing it in real time.
Next we spent time at the Equal Justice Initiative Legacy Museum, conceived in part by Bryan Stephenson, lawyer, advocate, and author of Just Mercy. The Legacy Museum tells the story of African-Americans from the beginnings of slavery through the present.
A short distance from the Museum is the Memorial to the Victims of Lynching, all 4,400 documented cases. And from not only places in the south but as close as Coatesville, PA. I’m sure most everyone in this room has been to the Holocaust Museum or Yad Vashem, or Auschwitz. Knowing how drained and horrified I’ve been after visiting those sites, I could really relate to the cruelty to and dehumanization of African-Americans. It is Man’s Inhumanity to Man.
Selma. When you thought it couldn’t get worse it did. We heard from a resident of Selma, who as a child protested discrimination with her family. We heard how her mother died in the local hospital because she couldn’t get “black” blood. We walked in the footsteps of MLK and John Lewis and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, as well as people who aren’t household names, as we crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge as they did on their march to Montgomery.
In Birmingham, at one time the most segregated city in America, I remembered watching TV as police under Bull Connor fire-hosed protesters. We sang hymns with a Pastor who was a friend of Dr. King.
We Jews are not strangers to discrimination, persecution, and anti-Semitism particularly at this time in our history. Putting myself in the shoes of the African-American population was very impactful. Learning firsthand what they went through and still go through because of Fear of the Other. An important lesson learned was to treat people who don’t look or worship like you as Another, not The Other.
This is a trip that is a must for everybody, young and old. I came away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the racial inequities in our country. Now I’m ready to do something about it.
Resources & Current Events
JCPA Jewish Council of Public Affairs
AJC Advocacy Anywhere – Global Jewish Advocacy
JCRC – Jewish Community Relations Council
Films About Racial Justice
NCJW – National Council of Jewish Women
Mail-in Voting Information for the November 3, 2020 Election
The Alice Paul Institute
100 Years Of The 19th Amendment
The National Constitution Center
The Right To Vote
Equal Rights Amendment – Equal Means Equal
Coronavirus and the Disproportionate Loss of Jobs Among Women
Jews of Color