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November 20, 2019

ACT 3 by Tracy Howard

What is Impact? What is the difference between Donor and Philanthropist? What is your mission statement?

These were some of the very thought-provoking questions and topics presented to us ACT-ors by Jillian Wagenheim in our last session. To have a speaker educate and challenge us on these topics as we embark on the holiday season was so timely,

We had a lot of discussion around what impact is and what it means to each individual.  Jillian was very interactive…a lot of participation as well as an activity that turned into discussions with a partner.  We were educated on both the technical definition of impact as well as the colloquial definition.  Out of the colloquial definition arose another very interesting exchange—what is the difference between being a donor or philanthropist?  We had a lot of conversation on this subject and many in the group felt, upon reflection, that they fell more into the donor category.  Digging even deeper — they were more reactive donors vs proactive donors.  Jillian did an excellent job of forcing us to examine how we have given historically and how that might change based on this new awareness, whether that giving is financial or giving of one’s time.

I enjoyed all aspects of this conversation and found it very educational. I left the afternoon with my own personal mandate of developing a mission statement for our family—what are our collective values, interests and how do we want to be impactful going forward? I realize now that my family could be more thoughtful in our philanthropy, whether it is financial or time-focused. It isn’t always easy saying no to philanthropic offerings, especially ones being promoted through those near and dear to you, but I learned here that it is OK to say “no thank you,” and to remain true to your passions and missions.

I certainly know my family could do more no matter where our mission statement ends up taking us…. Happy Thanksgiving.

November 19, 2019

Thank you to eJewish Philanthropy for spreading the word about our Pop-Up Giving Circle!

November 15, 2019

ACT 3 by Gabby Spatt, “The Family Giving Tree”

‘Tis the season for donation requests and days of giving. As Thanksgiving and Hanukkah approach, so does the time of the year when the spirit of giving is on our minds.

The November JWFA ACT session topic was a perfect one – family giving. From a young age, Jewish children are taught the idea of Tzedakah, the Jewish value of charitable giving. This idea stays with us and connects with the idea of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) as we age. These two topics are close to my heart.

I found this session to be incredibly interesting and informative, and one I wouldn’t usually think about. I appreciate that ACT brought it to our attention and shares tools, resources and an expert to further educate us. The conversation challenged me to honestly think about my family’s charitable giving and how we give. Do we give because we’re obligated to or do we give with real passion and purpose?

I know as my husband I continue grow our family, charitable giving will always be a part of our family values. My hope is that our children become a part of the experience and as a family we decide what is important to us in our charitable giving.

November 11, 2019

History was made last night in Atlanta, as a room full of Jewish women and teenage daughters joined together to participate in the first (and hopefully annual) Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta Power of Women Pop-Up Giving Circle.

Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta (JWFA) promotes social change and creates positive opportunities for Jewish women and girls. In the seven years since our inception, we have hosted a number of educational events, launched our signature Agents of Change Training program, and are in the final stages of a formal community-wide needs assessment. With that said, the primary way we execute our mission is through grantmaking. Last night was a showcase of three of our local grantee partners and a simulation of our collective grantmaking process.

While the actual allocations process runs year-long and has many moving parts, rounds of votes, interviews, and discussions, the pop-up giving circle was designed to give women a taste of what it’s like to be around the table at a JWFA grant meeting. Learning from each other, hearing other’s opinions, and debating the relative merits of different projects all contribute to the experience.

In last night’s experiment-turned-success, each participant added her $180 to the pot (teenage daughters were invited to attend for free), with total contributions totaling $9,000. JWFA chose not to take out any costs for administration, and so every dollar raised was granted on the spot. Throughout the evening, the group listened to live presentations from three local projects, each of whom promote social change for teenage girls in Atlanta’s Jewish community. Tasked with determining how the $9,000 would be split among the three projects, attendees then had an opportunity to ask questions of the presenters and engage in table discussions. Words cannot adequately describe the energy and excitement in the room!

First to present was Atlanta Jewish Academy, which is running its Young Women in STEM career fair and mentoring project for the second year, after receiving pilot funding from JWFA in 2018. With women representing a fraction of the workforce in science, math, technology, and engineering fields, this project increases access to and interest in these careers for female Jewish teens throughout Atlanta.

The second project was JumpSpark’s Strong Women Fellowship, which is also in its second year after receiving pilot funding from JWFA last year. By grappling with myriad issues facing women today, this fellowship prepares teens to be strong leaders and advocates while incorporating a peer training model.

Finally, the crowd heard from SOJOURN, the Southern Jewish Resource Network for Gender and Sexual Diversity, which is launching a comprehensive sex education program for Jewish LGBTQ teens and allies. Thanks to a 2019 pilot grant from JWFA, SOJOURN’s SVELT program will empower participants to make informed and responsible decisions about sexual health and behavior. The broad range of topics will include human development, relationships, body image, and disease prevention.

Though discussions could have continued all night, eventually it was time to vote. Each participant received 9 tickets, each of which represented $1,000. Each woman allocated her 9 tickets among the three organizations as she saw fit, with some dividing the money equally, while others chose to give it all to the project that spoke to them the loudest. The actual money was allocated proportionately, based on the women’s votes. In the end, the group decided to grant $2,673 to Young Women in STEM, $2,304 to the Strong Women Fellowship, and $4,023 to LGBTQ sex education.

Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of the evening is that many adults found themselves taking the lead from the teens at their table. Recognizing that the teens were experts in the subject matter, a role reversal took place, with one mom even commenting that she changed her decision after listening to her daughter’s feedback. In the words of one participant, “My mind was blown away by those presentations.”

We had toyed with the idea of running a pop-up giving circle for years and finally decided to make it happen after hearing of the success of a similar event at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. Now that we have seen its impact and felt its energy, it is safe to say we will be repeating it. My vision and hope is that it grows as the years go on, and that ultimately women will flock to the pop-up giving circle the same way they do with the mega challah bake each year.

In what was a perfect illustration of our grantmaking model – turning one’s tzedakah into so much more by multiplying it by the power of the collective – we also made a statement about the value of young women’s education and leadership in our Jewish community. When a room full of passionate women come together and take a stand for our girls, we are agents of social change.

October 27 – November 5, 2019

JWFA is in Israel! Check out our Israel blog here.

October 25, 2019

ACT 2 by Jan Jay, ACT Participant

Commonly we think that unfortunate circumstances that happen to people — abuse, addiction, homelessness — do not necessarily happen to Jewish people or in Jewish families. Unfortunately they do. So when the #MeToo movement gained tremendous momentum following the Harvey Weinstein scandal in October of 2017, perhaps people thought that this kind of abuse didn’t happen in Jewish communal organizations. As members of the ACT cohort,  we learned through a captivating presentation by Jamie Allen Black that indeed, it does, and it was proven in a January 2017 survey.  Gender-bullying by and against both men and women, fundraiser/donor inappropriate behavior, and other variations of gender abuse truly impacts Jewish professionals in 2019.

Also stunning to learn was the gender inequality that exists in these Jewish philanthropic agencies.  While data has shown that women-run organizations are actually run better than those run by men, the numbers in the C-Suite do not reflect that realization. A stunning statistic relayed that 70% of Jewish communal employees are female yet only 30% sit in top level seats.

How can we change that as women and as men?  We need to do research when we spend our philanthropic dollars. Who is sitting on the Boards and in the executive positions? We must educate our organizations and let them know that our dollars will follow the philanthropies that provide equitable positions to all.

But on a higher level, what can we do so our daughters are treated equally to their male counterparts when they become adults? We know that the schism exists but what do we do for the next generation see a real change?  It seems to have been in the forefront for many years — that men are paid more, that men are elected more frequently, and hold the higher corporate positions. We have started to see a change in our newest Congress and maybe that is a beginning. We must continue the conversation. Step by step we can create change. We teach our daughters that they can do and be what they want. Now we have to teach them how to be heard.

October 23, 2019

ACT 2 by Caren Cohen, ACT Participant

I have always considered myself a strong woman. But last week at our meeting I found my definition of strong woman challenged. Jamie Allen Black came to our ACT meeting and talked about women in the work place and I heard her. But it wasn’t until she said to think of a time when you weren’t strong, when you gave in to another person despite your true feelings, that I understood her. At the time I could only think of one instance. But on reflection I have realized that while I might not have any shocking #metoo moments, I can think of hundreds of little ways I have given in or been passed over because I was a woman.

Now I am not only looking to the future for myself, I am looking at it for my daughter. She has a much better grip on what equality means than I did at her age. But now that my eyes have been opened I see the many ways society, as well as her father and I, have let her down. I have a son and a daughter and no we can’t honestly say we have raised them both the same way. No we can’t honestly say that all things are equal in our home. No we can’t honestly say we have never expected differently from her because she is a girl. All we can say is that we can and will work to do better.

When 70% of the work force makes up only 30% of the executives there is plenty of room to do better in our businesses too, especially our Jewish non-profit businesses. At a time when racism is at an all time high I can’t help but think what kind of impact a large Jewish non-profit run by a woman would have on our society.

I am thankful for woman like Jamie who are opening our eyes and our minds and I am grateful for the Jewish Women’s Funding Network and specifically for the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta for bringing these issues to our attention.

October 3, 2019

Act 1 by Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, ACT Participant

What happens when you put twenty empowered, inspired, and action oriented women in a room and tell them to make the ground rules for their program? We get busy!

We worked fast and furious in our table groups to come up with the top three to five ground rules. We were specific and focused. We were thinking creatively to capture nuance beyond the expected things like showing up and being present. What does it really mean to form a cohort of women who are going to work together to become agents of change in Atlanta – engaging in gendered philanthropy with a Jewish lens?

Be brave, don’t be perfect.

What happens here stays here. What’s learned here leaves here.

Be real. Be vulnerable.

Judgement free zone.

Trust. Authenticity. Honesty.

We started this year by pushing ourselves and each other to ensure it will the best possible experience. We are each investing a lot of time and JWFA is entrusting this new program to us. We are ready to ACT!

September 29, 2019

Rosh Hashana Greetings from JWFA Executive Director, Rachel Wasserman

This is the truth as I know it and have been taught: As a woman in 2019, I should have it all – a demanding career; a well-functioning family; a robust personal life full of volunteer opportunities, social gatherings, and religious involvement; regular exercise and healthy meal plans; an environmentally-conscious home; and a calendar filled with Instagram-worthy vacations and Pinterest-inspired parties. I should also get 8 hours of sleep per night.

Are these expectations possible? Perhaps. Are they reasonable? Absolutely not. Do they take a toll on my mental health and the mental health of nearly every woman I know? One hundred percent, yes.

As women, we are often our worst critics. We hold ourselves to unreasonable expectations and feel a deep sense of failure when we do not achieve our unachievable standards. In the coming weeks, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta will be releasing the results of our community needs assessment on local Jewish women. This sentiment of feeling the need to have it all but not being able to meet those expectations was echoed again and again throughout the study. Women said they are in constant conflict, feeling like they cannot prioritize one area of their life without sacrificing somewhere else. Several mentioned guilt over “never being enough.” A high schooler stated that it wasn’t acceptable to be anything less than perfect.

It is easy to blame social media for our problems, but as a member of Gen X, I grew up in a pre-social media world, still being taught that I should be able to do it all without even breaking a sweat. A 2019 study by C. Collins showed that, “unlike women in other countries who blamed unrealistic cultural expectations and structural barriers for not being able to ‘do it all,’ American women blamed themselves.” We pass these expectations along from generation to generation, and until we reach a tipping point of women making a concerted effort to shift this outlook, we will continue to do so, setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

As we approach the high holidays, Jews are taught to do a “Cheshbon haNefesh,” an accounting of the soul. We think about the past year and how we treated others and ask forgiveness for our shortcomings or wrongdoings. We ask G-d to forgive our sins. With all of this focus on asking for forgiveness, I would encourage us to also ask ourselves for forgiveness for not being able to do it all. It is easy to be hard on ourselves, to compare ourselves to others, or to feel like we are failing ourselves and those around us. If we can show ourselves some compassion, realize that we cannot do it all, but rather use the village around us to support ourselves and our families, we will be a lot closer to happiness. I would like to see women shift the definition of “having it all” to mean having less stress, increased mental health, and reasonable expectations for our careers, personal lives, and community involvement.

L’shana tova u’metuka. Wishing you a year of personal fulfillment and happiness.

September 12, 2019

ATLANTA – September 12, 2019 – Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta is proud to introduce the women selected to participate in the first class of ACT – Agents of Change Training. This new initiative is designed to give women in the Jewish community the necessary tools to use their voices to truly effect change – to get involved in causes they are passionate about and make a difference in impactful and meaningful ways. Through strategic, interactive seminars led by accomplished leaders, activists, and influencers, ACT seeks to challenge and engage, while providing networking and mentoring opportunities designed to foster a sense of growth personally, professionally and communally. The Atlanta Jewish Times covered the announcement here.

“The core of our mission at Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta (JWFA) is to promote social change and to create positive opportunities for Jewish women and girls. It is our hope that participants will go on to make an impact in initiatives that advance a variety of causes that are meaningful to them,” says JWFA Executive Director, Rachel Wasserman. “The goal is to equip these women with the tools to literally act on their own, whether their cause is gender equality or something else significant to them.”

ACT is a nine-month program, and the 20 women participating represent a wide cross-section of ages, experiences, and Jewish involvement. The women of ACT 2019-2020 are: Amy Fox, Andi Neiman, Beth Sherman, Caren Cohen, Dr. Eve Wexler, Felicia Marable, Gabby Spatt, Hannah Spinrad, Jan Jay, Jennifer Mosbacher, Joanna Israel, Julie Mokotoff, Lauren Sturisky, Leslie Reitman, Dr. Lynn Bahr, Melissa Kaplan, Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, Sheryl Lyss, Susie Greenberg, and Tracy Rosenbluth Howard.

Additional biographical information is available on our website at www.jwfatlanta.org/act.

“I am excited to join ACT for many reasons,” says Julie Mokotoff. “First, I look forward to learning from and engaging with other like-minded females in the Atlanta Jewish community. Second, the cornerstone of my Judaism is the principle of L’dor V’dor. If, as a society, we want to create a pipeline of the next generation of female leaders, my peers and I must act as a bridge that connects the past present and future generations. Third, as a volunteer at my synagogue, the MJCCA and my children’s schools, I would like to strengthen my network and improve my advocacy skills.”

One of the qualities that sets ACT apart from pre-existing leadership programs is the fact that it actively engages women in Atlanta’s Jewish community at many different stages of their lives. Unlike similar programs focused on convening both men and women primarily in their 20s and 30s, ACT applicants for the pilot year ranged in age from 30-68. Many applicants were women who had not previously engaged in any formal capacity within the Jewish community, while others were seasoned activists looking to connect with new organizations and causes on a deeper level. The program will expose participants to a variety of opportunities to get involved and make a difference in both the Jewish and secular communities. ACT also includes a mentor element that will pair participants with JWFA trustees.

“I think ACT is a very unique program,” says participant, Joanna Israel. “I have been a part of several leadership programs and have volunteered in the Jewish community for years, and I’m always looking for new ways to deepen my engagement in the community and feel like I have the tools to truly make a difference.”

ACT will kick off later this month with an orientation and continue with monthly seminars that explore themes including networking and communication, women, money and power, moving beyond #metoo, and advocacy in action. In addition to the scheduled sessions, ACT participants will have the opportunity to engage with JWFA trustees on a regular basis and will be connected to other organizations that provide opportunities to delve further into their personal interests.

“We were blown away by the quality and quantity of the applicants for the pilot year and are so proud to have ignited such excitement in the community” says Wasserman. “While we hope all of the participants will continue to be involved with JWFA for years to come, our ultimate goal is to funnel leaders throughout the community, not just to our own organization. This sets ACT apart from many other leadership programs.”

Founded in 2012, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta promotes social change and expands positive opportunities for Jewish women. Each year, JWFA accepts funding proposals and makes allocations according to a group decision-making process. In its first seven years, the organization has invested $915,300 in 44 partner organizations, collectively providing a more safe, healthy, and equitable future full of possibility both directly and indirectly to countless women and girls. No other organization is as exclusively and passionately dedicated to the advancement of Jewish women and girls in Atlanta and around the world. JWFA is a proud partner of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

JWFA is part of The Jewish Women’s Funding Network, a collaborative of 18 member funds engaged in social change fundraising, advocacy and grantmaking to change the world for women and girls. The JWFN has collective assets of $43 million and has awarded more than $53 million in grants to support gender equality in the Jewish community.

August 20, 2019

We are thrilled to announce the first class of participants in our ACT: Agents of Change Training program. Click here to view the list and short bios of these incredible ACTivists.

August 1, 2019

The “Auditioning ACT” by Enid Draluck, JWFA Education Chair

You never know if what you envision will come to fruition, but after participating in the interview process for the pilot cohort of ACT (Agents of Change Training program), there is no doubt in my mind that this is the real thing!

When JWFA’s Program Manager, Dina Fuchs Beresin, did her research about what leadership programs for Jewish women were out there, and more importantly what was not, it is obvious that ACT resonated with more women than we could accommodate during this pilot cohort. The overwhelming response was confirmation that what ACT represents is what the women in our community are craving.

The diversity in a group of women that are not really diverse, was testament to the need for a program like this across the broad spectrum of Jewish women in our community. Professionals in the secular and Jewish sector, empty nesters, community volunteers, young, middle age and older, native Atlantans and transplants, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. They were introspective and willing to answer the well thought out questions and in doing so making themselves vulnerable.

ALL were looking forward to and optimistic about being pioneers and helping to shape what the program will look like. The resounding thread woven through all of the interviews I participated in was the potential to create a cohesive group of Jewish women who could establish a bond between themselves and work toward the greater good for each other and other Jewish women and girls in our local community.

I was truly humbled to be able to speak with and learn from so many incredible women, especially our own – Rachel and Dina. We, JWFA, are doing cutting edge work and I was so proud to be representing our Fund to the outside community during this interviewing process.

WE are making our mark on this community and the ripple effects are endless.

May 29, 2019

Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta Announces 2019 Grantee Partners

May 29 (Atlanta): Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta (JWFA) has issued its 2019 grant allocations to twenty organizations that promote gender equality in the Jewish community. The grantee partners, located both domestically and internationally, share JWFA’s mission to promote social change and create positive opportunities for Jewish women and girls. JWFA uses the power of collective giving to fund long-term solutions to issues that impact women and girls in the Jewish community. Over the last seven years, JWFA has invested over $915,000 in grants to promote gender equality in the Jewish community. No other organization is as exclusively and passionately dedicated to the advancement of Jewish women and girls in Atlanta and around the world.

The group awarded the following 2019 grants, totaling $200,000:

Impact Area: Education and Leadership

  • Atlanta Jewish Academy, Young Women in STEM Career Fair and Mentoring ProgramThis program will increase access to and interest in careers in STEM for Jewish women and includes a one-day career fair with year-round mentoring opportunities for female high school students in Greater Atlanta. It provides access for the students to meet with women who have a variety of careers in STEM fields and to learn about STEM-based college curricula and career opportunities with the additional benefit of mentorship opportunities.
  • HaMidrasha, LishmahLishmah is a study program integrated into a 10-month pre-army curriculum that empowers young women to become activists, leaders, and agents of social change at mechina, in the IDF, and in Israeli society. It also challenges young men to embrace and promote gender equality and gender identity acceptance as fundamental social and Jewish values.
  • jGirls Magazine, General Operating SupportjGirls is an online magazine written by and for self-identifying Jewish teenage girls. Content is created by teens and curated by a teen editorial board. jGirls users are empowered with leadership skills, self-esteem, sense of identity, and engagement and status within the Jewish community, while building a pipeline to a future cohort of bold, committed Jewish female leaders.
  • Jscreen, PEACH BRCA StudyIn partnership with the Emory Winship Cancer Institute, this pilot program will provide free BRCA testing and genetic counseling for up to 500 Jewish women and men who do not have a personal or close family history of cancer but are at increased risk for carrying a BRCA mutation because of their Ashkenazi background. The ultimate goal of the pilot study is to expand the program nationally and make convenient, affordable BRCA screening and counseling available to Ashkenazi Jews across the country.
  • JumpSpark, Strong Women FellowshipBuilding on the success of last year’s pilot, this program provides female-identifying Jewish teens in Atlanta access to strong female leaders, connection with peers, and empowering learning. By grappling with the myriad issues facing women today, this fellowship prepares teens to be strong leaders and advocates while incorporating a peer training model.
  • SOJOURN, Comprehensive Sex Education for Jewish LBGTQ Teens – This pilot program will empower participants to make informed and responsible decisions about sexual health and behavior by providing age-appropriate, medically-accurate, comprehensive sex education that is targeted specifically for members of the LGBTQ and Jewish communities. A broad range of topics will include human development, relationships, contraception, and disease prevention.
  • WePower, General Operating SupportWePower operates ongoing leadership training programs to proactively promote women’s leadership and gender parity in the public and political sectors of Israel. WePower locates potential women leaders and encourages and motivates them to pursue leadership roles by providing them with tools, know-how, and networking platforms.
  • Yeshivat Maharat, Advanced Kollel: Executive Ordination TrackThis program trains and ordains Orthodox women who are already educators and leaders in the Jewish community but who never had the opportunity to receive rabbinic ordination because Yeshivat Maharat did not exist when they began their careers. Through a part-time, three-year intensive course of learning leading to ordination, the Executive Ordination Track brings greater equity to the field of Jewish education and leadership.

Impact Area: Social Justice and Violence Prevention

  • ATZUM, Task Force on Human Trafficking and ProstitutionTFHT confronts the social-political issues that perpetuate human trafficking and exploitation through prostitution and seeks protection for its victims. After celebrating the recent success of the “Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services Bill” becoming law, TFHT will now work to secure options for medical and psychosocial treatment, housing, and occupational training for prostituted persons and public education to support integration of these women into Israeli society.
  • Center for Women’s Justice, Legal and Social Activation Project for Women’s RightsCWJ will utilize bolstered litigation initiatives, educational outreach, and public mobilization to achieve equality and dignity for Jewish women in Israel in the face of the control of the religious court. CWJ’s unique strategy uses civil law to identify, challenge, and eliminate infringements on women’s rights by setting key precedents with the potential to overhaul institutionalized, systemic injustice.
  • Hebrew University, Economic Development of Women Clinic – The Economic Development of Women Clinic of the Clinical Legal Education Center at Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law advocates and protects the socioeconomic rights of women, focusing on women at the margins of society, who often face multiple levels of discrimination. The Clinic’s goals are to effect broad change in the policies and common attitudes adversely impacting these women; to empower women and provide individual legal advice and representation; and to educate law students in gender-sensitive legal thought and discourse, giving them the opportunity to practice law for social causes and developing in them an understanding of the unique problems women face.
  • Makkom, Our Place: Young Women Leading Social ChangeThe project encourages the leadership and social activism of young women from vulnerable populations. In a series of meetings between the young women and law students, they will choose issues from their own life experience, perform legal and social research, offer methods to promote relevant social change, and start implementing those methods.
  • Moving Traditions, Training Institute for Summer Camp Leaders This pilot will build a culture of safety, respect, and consent at Jewish summer camps by preparing camp professionals to train their staff with the knowledge, skills, and tools to identify and eliminate sexism, inappropriate sexuality, harassment, and assault.

Impact Area: Economic Empowerment

  • Atid BaMidbar, Mevashlot: Culinary Queens – This project brings livelihood and dignity to low-income women aged 50-75 from diverse ethnic groups, most of whom have never worked outside the home, empowering them economically and personally while contributing to local sustainable economic development in the Negev. As they host visiting groups from Israel and abroad for meals and share their inspiring stories, the women exemplify grassroots leadership and are well paid for their skills, heritage, and hospitality.
  • Jerusalem College of Technology, Women’s Entrepreneurship ProgramThis initiative provides Haredi women with exposure to the hi-tech ecosystem and training in innovative thinking and business development for hi-tech product and company creation. The program encourages women to fulfill their potential as innovators, either by starting their own companies or applying their entrepreneurial skills to attain higher level positions in larger companies.
  • Jewish Women’s Funding Network, Women and Mothers at Work: Gender Transformative Employment Policies – This collaborative grant with 14 other Jewish women’s funds from around the U.S. supports collaborative and effective efforts for women’s rights and gender equality in Israel, with a focus on labor rights for contract employees.
  • La’Ofeck (formerly JobKatif), Achotenu: Academic Nursing Program for Ethiopian-IsraelisAchotenu empowers young Ethiopian-Israelis to follow their educational and career aspirations of becoming nurses and thereafter establishing a stable financial future, while serving as role models for their community.
  • Public Knowledge Workshop, FemBuy – FemBuy will collect and share data across numerous platforms that will quantify the actual number of government contracts currently held by female-owned/operated businesses with the ultimate goal of increasing the proportion of contracts granted to female-owned businesses, in accordance with current Israeli law.
  • Women’s Spirit, Breaking the BindBreaking the Bind advocates for change in fundamental Israeli policies and laws that undermine, destabilize, and weaken women’s financial security and personal safety, especially survivors of violence. It sheds light on the invisible violence women suffer after they are no longer considered victims, as well as the pain and setbacks caused by systemic injustice and outdated laws.
  • Yozmot Atid, General Operating SupportYozmot Atid supports economic independence for women from diverse sectors of Israeli society so that they can transform their lives and break the cycle of poverty by establishing micro-businesses. The program provides low-income women with a comprehensive set of tools to advance their business plans, including high-level mentoring and micro-loans.

In addition to its grant-making, JWFA works strategically to host educational seminars, has been a local leader in human trafficking prevention, is launching the Agents of Change Training program, and is in the final stages of a community needs assessment to assess the needs of women and girls in Atlanta’s Jewish community.

May 1, 2019

“Be the change you wish to see in the world!” -Ghandi

This familiar quote serves up powerful inspiration, but the question remains – How exactly do you “become the change?”

Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta is proud to launch the inaugural year of the Agents of Change Training (ACT) program, designed to give women in the Jewish community the necessary tools to use their voices to truly BE THE CHANGE – to get involved in causes they are passionate about and make a difference in impactful and meaningful ways.  Through exclusive, interactive seminars led by accomplished leaders, activists, and influencers, ACT will challenge and engage this 1st cohort, while providing networking and mentoring opportunities designed to foster a sense of growth personally, professionally, and communally.

This is your chance to participate in an innovative leadership and advocacy program presented from a uniquely Jewish, female perspective.

The pilot class of ACT will launch in fall 2019 and run through spring 2020. Two-hour sessions will be conducted in various locations around Atlanta and will cover a variety of topics, including female leadership in the #metoo era and the power of collective activism. Participants will also be invited to various JWFA programs, meetings, and social gatherings.

If you or someone you know is interested in being a part of this exciting endeavor, more information and a printable application can be found here. To submit your application online, click here. APPLICATIONS ARE DUE BY JULY 1, 2019.

ACT is open to all women in the Jewish community 25+, regardless of their previous involvement or leadership experience.

March 7, 2019

Click to read all about our newest initiative! 

February 21, 2019

For Immediate Release:

Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta Launches First Ever Community Needs Assessment Focused on Jewish Women and Girls in the Greater Metro Area

ATLANTA, GA, February 12, 2019 – In an ongoing effort to uncover key areas of need for Jewish women and girls, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta (JWFA) is spearheading a study designed to more accurately identify future funding priorities. The study is the first of its kind to focus solely on this demographic within the local Jewish community.

Conducted in collaboration with researchers at Brandeis University’s Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies and the Steinhardt Social Research Institute, data collection will continue throughout the spring with findings announced in early summer. The effort is being led by JWFA trustees Lisa Fox Freedman and Martha Berlin.

“Since JWFA began six years ago, our goal has always been to elevate the voices of women and girls, and our incredible grantee partners have allowed us to truly make a difference in our community,” says Rachel Wasserman, Executive Director of JWFA. “This study will only enhance our ability to ensure that the types of programs and initiatives we are funding are the most relevant and impactful and best address the needs of contemporary Jewish women here in Atlanta.”

The research will shine a light on the most urgent needs of specific populations of women to determine whether current resources are adequately addressing those needs and identify issues of immediate priority. Data will be gleaned from a variety of sources including a wide array of focus groups, interviews with key community leaders and conversations with women and girls across the metro area. An advisory panel has also been seated that includes participants representing Jewish Family & Career Services, Sojourn, Jump Spark, the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and Jewish Home Life Communities.

Lead Brandeis researcher, Fern Chertok, notes that analyzing such data is truly an art form. “Ultimately, what we are attempting to do for JWFA is to build a narrative that captures the lived experience and the animating concerns of women and girls,” she says. “Issues facing women and girls in Atlanta may or may not mirror what is happening nationwide within our Jewish communities. Our goal through this study is to produce actionable knowledge that delves into issues of particular relevance to this demographic, such as aging and caregiving, work and family, and equitable access to opportunities and wellbeing.”

Founded in 2012, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta promotes social change and expands positive opportunities for Jewish women. Each year, JWFA accepts funding proposals and makes allocations according to a group decision-making process. In its first six years, the organization invested $715,300 in 39 partner organizations, collectively providing a more safe, healthy, and equitable future full of possibility both directly and indirectly to over 500,000 women and girls. More than 100 trustees currently serve as informed Jewish philanthropists and leaders by taking an active hands-on approach to JWFA’s grant-making process.

JWFA is part of The Jewish Women’s Funding Network, a collaborative of 25 member organizations engaged in social change fundraising, advocacy and grantmaking to change the world for women and girls.

February 19, 2019

We just received a beautiful story from our grantee partner, Achotenu, which promotes economic empowerment for Ethiopian Israelis. Achotenu recently hosted an undergraduate class from the @univofmaryland. The students, who were on a study-abroad trip in Israel, consisted of one Jew and five African Americans, including one from Ethiopia.

The purpose of the visit was for the American students to learn about challenges that the Ethiopian Israeli sector faces in the Israeli educational system and workforce, as well as how Achotenu addresses these issues. The Achotenu students spoke about their barriers to entry to academia and how Achotenu is helping them achieve their dreams of studying nursing.

One of the most poignant moments of the visit was when an Ethiopian American student, who had previously spoken in English, asked our students in Amharic how they maintained their cultural heritage in Israel. The Israeli students looked shocked upon hearing their native tongue. They answered and then posed a similar question. How do African Americans assimilate into mainstream American culture? Are they accepted?

It was a beautiful cross-cultural exchange, eye opening for all present.

See the photo here.

February 1, 2019

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Leshma

Leshma works with mechinot (pre-army academies) throughout Israel to address gender and leadership with students and officers. They begin the teaching component of the program with an intensive introductory seminar that opens their eyes to gender issues, including behavioral norms at the mechinot as they relate to identity, sex, and gender. Everything from forms of address, language, relationships, dormitory life, community living, sexual identity, clothing, gendered roles, and official positions are discussed. These conversations are all co-ed, so men and women work together to address the issues.

Shira, an 18 year-old student from Tel Aviv, said the following during a conversation about norms of dress at the mechina: “I want them to trust us to dress the way we find appropriate, without anyone commenting that my clothing is too revealing or too modest. I’m sick and tired of the fact that they make these comments only to girls – that they look only at us, at how we dress. Dress is a form of personal expression. Stop bothering us about how long our pants are and how low the neckline is. It’s an invasion of private space.”

January 2, 2019

Grantee Partner Spotlight: jGirls Magazine

This year has been an exciting and productive one for jGirls Magazine, which is an online magazine produced by and for Jewish teenage girls. Our funding allows jGirls to run a robust editorial board leadership program.

Seven of last year’s editors graduated high school, signaling the end of their terms at jGirls. The board is currently composed of 7 returning and 9 new editors, who are diverse in Jewish practice, sexual orientation, geography, ethnicity, and interests.

Instead of going on and on about all of the exciting new initiatives happening at jGirls (there are a LOT), I want to share this quote from a jGirls editor and invite you to visit www.jgirlsmagazine.org to see for yourself:

“There are things that we experience every day and we think that we are the only ones. We think that there is no one to turn to but in reality, we just haven’t found them yet. Almost every Jewish teen girl in America will go through similar situations and will be able to give advice and lift up other girls. jGirls Magazine gives these girls that outlet to find their people and find the ones that will confirm that they are TRULY not alone. That somewhere in this world, someone DOES care about you, and someone does understand.” -Sammi Reyes, age 16

November 16, 2018

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since our site visit trip to Israel! We can hardly wait until October 2019, when we will return. In the meantime, we’ll settle for pita and falafel in Atlanta, while we reminisce about our last trip and brainstorm about the next one. Will you join us? 

November 13, 2018

The Zaban-Paradies Center is the only shelter in Atlanta for homeless couples. In advance of Thanksgiving, JWFA Trustees and friends rolled up their sleeves and spent the morning making lunches for the Center’s residents, then taking a tour of the facility. 

October 30, 2018

This is the first year that JWFA has allocated a grant to JobKatif’s Achotenu program, and the results are already amazing! JobKatif empowers Ethiopian-Israelis to follow their aspirations of becoming nurses by providing tutoring, living subsidies, and group support.

As a young child, D journeyed across the Sudan with her family, dreaming of making aliyah to Jerusalem. Along the way, her mother decided to separate D from the rest of the family, thinking that this way she would have a better chance of surviving the arduous trek. D remembers the heart wrenching feeling of being torn from her mother. She joined another family, who fed her meager scraps through the reminder of the trip. Eventually she was reunited with her family and they made it to Jerusalem. D recalls beginning school in Israel and holding a pencil for the first time in her life. She was the only non-White person in her class.

Fast forward 20 years. D graduated high school, got married, had children, and worked as a nurse’s aide but dreamed of becoming a nurse. D applied to JobKatif, doing her homework alongside her children who were doing theirs. Today D is employed as a nurse and encourages her children to succeed in school, so that they too many follow their dreams.

“The best thing about Achotenu is the community. I know that I can always call someone for help, and sometimes people call me. We are all there for each other.” 

October 11, 2018

Part of our mission statement is “creating positive opportunities for Jewish women and girls,” and this year we have been finding more and more ways to engage Jewish women throughout Atlanta in our work. October 11th was International Day of the Girl, and we honored the day by hosting a facilitated book discussion of “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer. It was very meaningful to sit in a room of women, many of whom had never met before that day, and have passionate discussions about feminism and sisterhood. 

Do you have a suggestion for a book for a future book discussion? Let us know! 

September 26, 2018

We are always proud of our Grantee Partners. They are on the ground every day doing important work to facilitate social change for Jewish women and girls. Recently, several of our Grantee Partners were honored with a well-deserved distinguished award, and we can’t stop kvelling! 

The prestigious Genesis Prize, known as the “Jewish Nobel Prize” was presented by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to thirty-seven Israeli women’s rights organizations serving women from all of Israel’s ethnic and religious groups, including JWFA Grantee Partners: Center for Women’s Justice, Wepower, and Van Leer Institute. Read all about the award here

Click here for a complete list of award winners, including our very own Grantee Partners. 

Susan Weiss of Center for Women’s Justice with Ruth Bader Ginsburg

September 21, 2018

Last week a room full of JWFA Trustees gathered for the first quarterly Trustee Board Meeting of our 2018-2019 year. We were delighted to hear from two amazing guest speakers, representing two of our Grantee Partners. First, Dr. Mazal Shaul, Executive Director of WEPOWER, spoke to us about the upcoming election and what WEPOWER is doing to prepare female candidates for success. A record number of women are running for mayor in Israel, including Mazal herself! We are so proud to support WEPOWER as they increase the number of women in Israeli politics. Click here to view the entire interview with Mazal.

Next, we were thrilled to meet with Rabba Melissa Scholten-Gutierrez, a recent graduate of Yeshivat Maharat, and an even more recent transplant to Atlanta! Rabba Melissa provided us with insight into the leadership curriculum that JWFA has supported for the last three years. Additionally, she answered a number of questions about what it means to be female Orthodox clergy. The entire speech can be viewed on our Facebook page

September 18, 2018

Thank you to the Atlanta Jewish Times for this great article about our recent program with Dr. Alexis!

September 17, 2018

A Rosh Hashana Message

As Jews, this time of year is all about new beginnings. For those of us with school-aged children, the past month has been a series of new beginnings: a new school year, new teachers, new school supplies, new schedules, and new expectations. For those of us celebrating the High Holidays, we make new promises to ourselves and to God, we begin a new cycle of the Torah readings, and we begin a new Jewish year. For all of us, we begin a new season. The mornings are becoming crisper, the air becomes less thick with that sticky Atlanta humidity, and we can start to see the signs of fall coming soon. It seems difficult to navigate the early weeks of September without feeling this newness all around us.

New beginnings can be scary, and yet at the same time they hold the promise of something better. We spend each Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur striving to be better than we were the year before. We commit to making changes in our lives, and whether those changes are spiritual or interpersonal in nature, they come with risks. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, and fear of new beginnings are natural human emotions. And yet, while a new beginning may be accompanied by fear, it also brings the possibility of great success.

For the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, new beginnings, change, and risk are at the heart of our work. Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta promotes social change and expands positive opportunities for Jewish women and girls. Each year, we allocate grants to organizations and programs that align with our mission. Over the years, we have supported many pilot programs, and while the risk of a new project can be scary, it also holds the possibility of great positive change for our community.

This year, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta has made grants to allow several pilot programs to launch right here in Atlanta. Atlanta Jewish Academy’s Women in STEM Career Fair Initiative will increase access to and interest in careers in STEM for Jewish women and includes a one-day career fair with year-round mentoring opportunities for female high school students in Greater Atlanta. Jump Spark (formerly known as the Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative) is launching Strong Women: Know Them, Be Them. This pilot program will connect female Jewish high school students with strong female role models across a spectrum of business, medicine, art, and law through days of learning, community mentorship, and empowerment. TrueChild, a national organization dedicated to challenging rigid gender norms, will work in partnership with JF&CS to launch JET: Jewish Girls Empowered Together. JET will teach middle school girls to think critically about gender norms, particularly in having more constructive ideas around female leadership, strength, and self-efficacy. SOJOURN is entering the second year of its two-year pilot program: Early Development of Gender Equity (EDGE), which works with kindergarten and first grade students, teachers, and parents throughout Atlanta’s Jewish community to break down gender stereotypes and allow children to reach their highest potential while eliminating gender inequity.

To date, these projects are all still at their beginning stages, and we eagerly anticipate watching how they unfold and hearing about their achievements. Each program has expected outcomes and measures of success, but as with everything new, we know to assume twists and turns will occur along the way. These programs allow the potential for great positive change in our community. As we elevate the voices of young Jewish women, we get a glimpse into a future where girls and women in our community have the same opportunities as boys and men. In order to accomplish this rather lofty goal, we know we must take risks along the way. Though they may be accompanied by anxiety or uncertainty, risks are not inherently bad; but rather, they are really just new beginnings.  

At this time of fresh starts and new beginnings, I want to invite you to engage with Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta as we change our community for the better. Please contact me at rwasserman@jwfatlanta.org to learn more about how to get involved. L’shana tova u’metuka.

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September 1, 2018

New Opportunity for Atlanta Teens

Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta has a history of supporting pilot programs, particularly in Atlanta. This year, we are proud to allocate a grant to Jump Spark (formerly known as the Atlanta Jewish Teen Initiative) for its Strong Women: Know Them, Be Them fellowship. This year-long, one-of-a-kind cohort will provide female-identifying Jewish high school students in Atlanta with unparalleled access to strong women leaders, thinkers, and voices shaping the world we live in today. Jump Spark has been recruiting speakers and mentors for the program, including Rachel Wallack of VOX Teen Communications, Caroline Rothstein (writer, poet, and performer), Nadia Bilchik, Rabbi Malka Packer-Monroe, and more. Applications for teens are due September 15th, so spread the word! 

August 29, 2018

“4 Keys to Longevity”

We were so thrilled to have a packed house for “4 Keys to Longevity” with Dr. Alexis Abramson. Dr. Alexis discussed the four areas that women should address if they want to live a long, healthy life: mind, body, social, and financial. With humor, wisdom, stories, videos, and research-based data, Dr. Alexis covered a lot of ground in a very short time. Though the program was targeted to women in the “sandwich generation,” the information was applicable to women at any age. 

Many thanks to Dr. Alexis Abramson, Congregation B’Nai Torah, and A Kosher Touch Catering. Thank you as well to our Community Partners: AgeWell Atlanta, a collaborative with Aviv Older Adult Services of JF&CS Atlanta, Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Jewish Home Life Communities, and the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta – MJCCA; Cong. Beth Jacob Sisterhood; Hadassah Greater Atlanta; Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta Women’s Philanthropy; MACoM – Metro Atlanta Community Mikvah; and Temple Sinai.

August 22, 2018

Open Hearts for the New Year

On August 22, 2018, Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta officially launched our newest initiative, “Coffee & Conversation,” with a heart-opening yoga class led by JWFA Vice-Chair Andrea Jaron. Part of our mission statement is “creating positive opportunities for Jewish women and girls,” and this yoga class was a perfect match for that mission! This time of year – the end of summer, the beginning of a new school year, the approach of the Jewish high holidays – can be a very busy and stressful time for Jewish women. By taking the time for self-care, breathing, and heart-opening stretches and poses, the women who attended are now better-equipped to face the challenges ahead.

We hope you will join us for our next Coffee & Conversation, which will be held on October 11th in honor of International Day of the Girl. We will have a book discussion about Meg Wolitzer’s novel, “The Female Persuasion,” which will be guided by an expert facilitator. The event is free, and all are welcome!

Join us for coffee, conversation, and a greater understanding of our mission and impact. At Coffee & Conversation, the activity or topic might change, but the goal is always the same: introduce women to our mission of promoting social change and creating positive opportunities for Jewish women and girls. From yoga to book club to guest speakers on important topics, Coffee & Conversation will offer something for everyone! 

July 23, 2018

A Big Win for ATZUM

In the fall of 2016, a delegation from Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta visited Israel to visit our Grantee Partners and gain a better understanding of women’s and girls’ issues in Israeli society. One of the most powerful meetings was the hour we spent with Rabbi Levi Lauer from ATZUM, learning about their task force to end human trafficking and prostitution in Israel. Soon after, ATZUM became a JWFA Grantee Partner. Their work aims to not only protect current victims of trafficking and those forced into prostitution, but also to criminalize the sale of sex and therefore punish traffickers, pimps, and johns.

Since that time, AZTUM has led the way to significant changes within Israel. Following a relentless, decade-long effort, on June 13, 2018, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked officially published Israel’s government memorandum of law for the Prohibition of Consumption of Prostitution Services. The memorandum, formally confirming the State of Israel’s commitment to confront the prostitution industry, finally and decisively defines the consumption of prostitution as an illegal and socially unacceptable act.

“Today we are sending a message that trafficking women and purchasing prostitution services are out of bounds. Using prostitution services is morally wrong, offensive and objectifies women’s bodies. There is no reason women in our society should be abandoned.” -M.K. Ayelet Shaked

ATZUM was instrumental in this effort. We are proud to support them today and every day as they continue the fight to end human trafficking in Israel.

July 1, 2018

An Evening at the Hackathon!

Since much of our work happens in Israel, it is not often that JWFA Trustees get to witness it firsthand. So, when JWFA Founder Ilene Engel and Grants Chair Linda Davis realized they would be in Jerusalem at the same time as the Jerusalem College of Technology LevTech Entrepreneurship Program Hackathon (JCT), they knew it was meant to be! Their visit to this Grantee Partner proved to be inspirational and educational. 

JCT trains 1 our of every 5 female computer science and software engineers in Israel. The student body is Haredi; however, although the students are highly-trained during their time at JCT, the Haredim have traditionally been underrepresented in the hi-tech entrepreneurship ecosystem. This is especially true of women, who tend to work in programming positions where they are recognized for their skills but do not normally work in product development or leadership roles. As a result, the full potential of Haredi women is not reaching the market, and the country is missing out on potentially game-changing ideas. 

Thanks to a grant from Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta, this year, the new JCT Entrepreneurship Program began operations to provide students with tools and opportunities to innovate. The goal of the Hackathon was to provide a chance for the students to work on products in interdisciplinary teams over a short period (44 hours), and to boost their confidence in this area. One hundred and forty young women were presented with complex challenges by major Israeli medical, financial, technology, and military companies. 

The Hackathon exceeded everyone’s expectations. Nursing mothers competed, holding their babies in their labs while programming. A group of first-year students who did not yet know how to program stayed up all night learning how to code and ended up developing a web-based math learning program for children. Nineteen products were developed in only 44 hours! 

The judges were blown away. The energy of the women, their willingness and courage to teach themselves new skills and then compete with them, their commitment to product development…it was all unbelievable! Women even slept on benches in order to have time to complete their projects!

Ilene and Linda had this to say, “With such specialized skills, these women will become important wage earners and leaders in their communities, paving the way for future generations of women. We left the evening feeling incredibly inspired and very proud of Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta.” 

Click here for a brief 2-minute video about the hackathon.