JFNA's Women's Philanthropy Board Convenes for Inspiring Retreat in NYC | Shalom Austin

JFNA’s Women’s Philanthropy Board Convenes for Inspiring Retreat in NYC

Philanthropy, The Jewish Outlook

Aug 23, 2023

From left to right: Kim Schocket, Val Newberg, MarianneRochelle, TobyShor, DebbiWeinberg. Courtesy:Marianne Midlo Rochelle

By Marianne Midlo Rochelle

The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) National Women’s Philanthropy (NWP) Board gathered June 12-14, 2023 in New York, New York for a highly anticipated, enriching, and empowering retreat.

The board is comprised of 150 women from dozens of federations, representing female Jewish leaders from across North America. The NWP retreat served as a remarkable platform for networking, sharing ideas, and building strong bonds among the attendees while providing an ideal setting for engaging discussions and thought-provoking sessions on various topics pertaining to philanthropy, community building, antisemitism, advocacy, social justice and more.

JFNA represents 146 Jewish Federations and over 300 Network communities throughout North America, which collectively raise and distribute more than $3 billion annually. The NWP Board members, who are nominated by their communities and selected through a competitive process, play a crucial role in their respective communities, and contribute generously to their Annual Campaigns.

The 2023 retreat welcomed powerful ‘bookends’ from Austin – Kim Schocket as a member of the first-year class and Val Newberg who serves in the eighth-year class. Additional members from Austin included third-year member Marianne Rochelle, fourth-year class members Toby Shor (Austin/Corpus Christi) and Debbi Weinberg (Baltimore/Austin), as well as fifth-year class member Jennifer Failla Hoffman. Distinguished alumni (no longer attending retreats) include Lecia Sud and Margo Smith. Retreat participants dedicated their time to discussing vital issues and advancing philanthropic efforts within the Jewish community.

Here’s an in-depth recap of the event:

Retreat Opening Remarks & Welcome 

Mandy Kaiser-Blueth, associate vice president of NWP, JFNA, highlighted the significant impact of NWP’s Lions program, which consists of 18,000+ members, including 4,500 who have endowed their gifts. These philanthropic efforts contribute over $200 million annually to the Annual Campaign, with an additional $700 million pledged in endowed assets. 

Insights on Generative Communal Leadership 

Rabbi Mike Uram, chief learning officer at JFNA, emphasized the importance of building meaningful relationships within the Jewish community. Rabbi Uram announced an upcoming online class series for NWP members titled “Generative Communal Leadership: Using Jewish values to lead in a time of divisiveness.”  

Panel Discussion on Israeli Agencies 

Amira Ahronoviz, CEO & director general of The Jewish Agency for Israel, and Reeva Ninio, chief of staff at The Joint (JDC), led a panel discussion. They emphasized the need to preserve core values and advocate for issues such as Aliyah (immigration to Israel), inclusivity, and conversion. JFNA expressed its commitment to working closely with Israeli agencies to ensure the well-being and strength of Israeli society. 

Holocaust Survivor Initiative 

Staci Barber, co-chair of JFNA’s Holocaust Survivor Initiative, highlighted the critical work being done to support Holocaust survivors living in poverty. She discussed the challenges faced by this vulnerable population and the urgent need for increased funding to provide them with essential services and care. Barber voiced appreciation for the $37+M raised so far and called upon NWP members to help with the initiative’s ongoing efforts, including achievement of the remaining amount of the fundraising goal (+$10M) to fully realize matching dollars. 

JFNA Priorities and Engagement 

Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of JFNA, and Julie Platt, chair of the Board of Trustees, shared the organization’s key priorities. They highlighted the LiveSecure Initiative, focused on enhancing community security programs across the Federation system, as well as ongoing efforts in Ukraine and combating antisemitism. They emphasized the importance of relaunching the Washington Conference in February ’24 to advocate and engage with members of Congress on issues relevant to the Jewish community.

Shira Hutt, VP, JFNA acknowledged the importance of Jewish Community Relations Councils (CRCs) and shared some graphics being developed for ‘What Communities Need To Do To Protect Themselves’. Adam Teitelbaum, ED, Israel Action Network & Associate VP, Public Affairs, JFNA led an interactive session around three case studies about antisemitism. 

In June 2020, the Jewish community took a significant step forward with the launch of the JEDI (Jewish Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion) Initiative. This part of the retreat took place in the beautiful sanctuary of Central Synagogue with two esteemed Jewish leaders of color. Rabbi Mira Rivera, Rabbi-in-Residence and Board-Certified Chaplain at JCC Harlam / The LUNAR Collective and Dammara Kovnats Hall, Jewish Leader, Educator and Entrepreneur reflected on the JEDI Initiative, which aims to enhance individual and organizational capacity to collectively foster a flourishing Jewish life and civil society. By centering on social and racial justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion through a Jewish lens, JEDI is driving a transformation in North American consciousness amid political divides. 

 Legacy Giving and the Jewish Future Pledge 

Dirk Bird, VP Planned Giving and Endowment at JFNA, presented on legacy giving and its profound impact on securing the future of the Jewish community. He shared compelling thoughts about trillions of dollars transferring to the next generation within the next 25 years, with a significant portion potentially being allocated to philanthropic gifts. It is crucial for the Jewish community to ensure that a significant portion of this wealth is dedicated to Jewish causes. 

Legacy giving, often done via endowments, creates a lasting impact by connecting past, present, and future generations. Dirk emphasized that the key factor motivating individuals to make legacy gifts is simply being asked by staff and/or lay leaders to join them in supporting the cause. When someone commits to an endowment, their annual giving also tends to increase, providing sustained support to Jewish organizations. 

Participants learned about the Jewish Future Pledge, a worldwide movement inspiring Jews to commit at least half of their charitable bequests to support the Jewish people and/or the State of Israel. By signing the pledge, individuals ensure that their legacy reflects their Jewish values and demonstrates their commitment to a vibrant Jewish future.  

Another significant initiative discussed during the retreat was the Lion Behind the Pin initiative. The chair of Legacy Giving for Shalom Austin’s Women’s Philanthropy, Marianne Midlo Rochelle will be working with Jennifer Koppel, Shalom Austin Jewish Foundation director and philanthropic advisor and the Lion Co-Chairs on their rollout for this program with local Lions of Judah.  

NWP offers a terrific opportunity to continuously learn about JFNA and NWP, staying informed about new initiatives and opportunities to make a lasting impact. This retreat provided ample opportunities for attendees to connect on a personal level and build lasting friendships. These informal networking events and group activities allow for the exchange of ideas, sharing experiences, and learning from one another’s successes and challenges. These connections foster a supportive network that will undoubtedly continue to thrive beyond the retreat.

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