A Good Beginning

Today’s philanthropy is more and more about partnerships, about measurable outcomes and the distribution of resources.

by Shari Eshet

It is a rare day when all the stars and the heavens come together; one recent Tuesday was such a day. Thirteen Haredi women, each from a different stream of the Haredi mosaic, graduated from a new program that provides them with opportunities to work in Israel. The project, which trains Haredi women to work in their communities as early childhood counselors, originated at the National Council of Jewish Women’s Research Institute for Innovation in Education at Hebrew University and is supported by the Hadassah Foundation.

Like all mothers, the women wanted to give their children a good beginning. Moreover, they came with a plan to enter the workforce through a profession that is dear and familiar to them: parenthood. They came because they knew there must be a better way for their own communities to thrive. As they studied early childhood education at Hebrew University over the past several months and acquired the appropriate professional and paraprofessional early childhood education tools, they learned that parenthood and early childhood education are universal values, and that the university setting can be welcoming and nurturing – even for women of their background. And they learned that a university environment is one where your own values and customs can and should be respected and that there is something to learn from the other.

The pilot program highlighted that education is the key to success and that good early childhood education starts at home with the child at the center. It demonstrated to participants that Haredi women from all different sects can be friends and learn from one another and that both the Haredi community and the secular university have something to offer each other.

Attending last week’s graduation ceremony together, Rabbi Ellen Flax, director of the Hadassah Foundation, and I, as director of the NCJW Israel Office, both realized that collaboration between two major American Jewish women’s organizations to advance women in Israel is a good model for future philanthropic work. Today’s philanthropy is more and more about partnerships, about measurable outcomes and the distribution of resources. The Hadassah Foundation, the National Council of Jewish Women and Hebrew University have done just that. May we all go from strength to strength.

Shari Eshet is director of NCJW’s Israel Office, based in Jerusalem. She oversees NCJW’s funding and advocacy efforts in Israel and is active on NCJW’s behalf in international coalitions on issues of concern to NCJW, including the International Coalition on Agunot Rights (ICAR) and the Forum of Foundations in Israel. She runs NCJW’s Israel Granting Program which supports grassroots organizations efforts to empower women in Israel.