A Jewish Women’s Fund

by Jennifer Gorovitz

As I enter my final days of work for our beloved Federation in San Francisco, I have been gradually contemplating the many projects, initiatives, and partnerships that will constitute my legacy and which have made my work over the past 10 years meaningful.

Among these many meaningful and important pieces, there is one that I won’t get to personally see through, but which I am particularly proud and excited to present: our Federation’s first-ever Jewish Women’s Fund. This is an idea on which several members of the community and I have ruminated for some time as a means of directing our focus and resources toward the increasingly fundamental role that women play in philanthropy and advocacy today, and the acute problems facing women and girls around the globe.

I am very happy to announce the launch of the Jewish Women’s Fund, which meets for the first time this month with 20 committed and dynamic women under the very capable leadership of the chair, esteemed Bay Area philanthropist Lisa Goldman. I couldn’t be more thrilled.

With Lisa’s talent and energy behind it, the Jewish Women’s Fund is a potent and direct approach to filling a gap in service and bringing Bay Area Jewish women into a direct, hands-on grant-making process. These women will be activists with a gender lens and a Jewish lens for serious issues that affect women and girls throughout the world. And there is no shortage of need.

Around the world, women are grappling with scores of issues that we have the capacity to examine and address head on – poverty, economic justice, trafficking, domestic abuse, sexual violence, health care, education, and so much more. While it is daunting to take on the multitude of issues that need attention, it is also hopeful and exciting that women’s and girls’ causes have tipped into the mainstream and become a cornerstone of international development. Clearly, advocates and philanthropists around the world are realizing that investing in girls and women means investing in the future of society as a whole. As President Obama asserted in his most recent State of the Union address, “When women succeed, America succeeds.”

Collectively, we can be a genuine force in confronting these issues, in both the Jewish and general communities, as we add our name to the growing list of more than 20 other Jewish Women’s Funds around the country doing similar important work.

The Jewish Women’s Fund is based on a giving circle model – pooling donors’ resources for grant-making – that will work to build strategic partnerships to create systemic social change in areas where they are needed; to harness women’s philanthropic power in new ways; and, to bring Jewish leadership and resources to bear on women’s causes. This is an inflexion point for the women of the Federation, a moment where we can apply ourselves for even greater impact. The first cohort of women will meet six times this year to take direct action by exploring, learning, and giving.

Creating a giving circle is in direct response to a desire expressed by many donors for more hands-on involvement with causes about which they’re passionate. I believe this is one of the most promising new frontiers at the Federation, and this model, combined with our very successful Impact Grants Initiative methodology, will also extend to donor engagement and grant-making for Israel, the local Russian-speaking Jewish community, and elsewhere in the coming years.

This important step would not have happened without the many important voices of the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy group, or without our dedicated staffers, Elisa Gollub and Sue Schwartzman.

My hope is that this new program becomes a powerful vehicle for impact and advocacy, whereby women across the Federation and beyond join together in force on behalf of women’s and girls’ causes, and help spark real, lasting change to improve the world.

Jennifer Gorovitz is Chief Executive Officer at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, San Francisco.