A New Reality for Jewish Women Social Entrepreneurs

By Rachel Weinstein and Debbie Cosgrove

In a significant first for the Jewish community, hundreds of Jewish women social entrepreneurs, philanthropists and social activists are gathering today for The Convening, an event created by The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York to elevate the impact of Jewish women innovators, create philanthropic momentum to advance their visions, and promote social change through a gender lens, fueled by communal values.

The Convening has multiple goals, paramount among them is recognizing and empowering Jewish women social entrepreneurs as change makers and leaders at a time when our community and the broader society remains adept at submerging them.

It is our hope that this inaugural event will quickly capture attention in communal, philanthropic and entrepreneurial spheres and establish The Convening – moreover The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York – as the go-to destination for Jewish women social innovators, advocates and supporters. We aim to create a dedicated space where they can converge as visionaries and advance creative solutions to impact a world that can desperately use multi-dimensional approaches to its seemingly intractable challenges.

If we look across the landscape of our Jewish organizations and communal structures, the void of such platforms and spaces for Jewish women social entrepreneurs has been and continues to be apparent, making the field itself incalculably less robust and far reaching.

Our community has allowed that reality to exist for far too long, and as a leader in the Jewish women’s funding arena, JWFNY would be delinquent not to alter that status quo by practice and example.

As issues affecting women and girls have moved, albeit slowly, to a more prominent place in our national conversation over the last several years, so must they within the Jewish discourse. They must progress from talk, to action, change and growth. Relieving this relative paralysis is a reflection of our community’s commitment to social justice, and its obligation to model respect, empowerment and inclusiveness to society at large.

The Convening today is the culmination of a year of redirection and redefinition of the work of JWFNY itself, all of which is designed to uplift, engage and empower Jewish women social entrepreneurs and leaders. How so? By creating a worldwide cohort of like-minded visionaries who are acting as catalysts of change, placing them in philanthropic circles that can fuel them, and brokering partnerships that will lead to ripples of impact we cannot even begin to predict.

At the center of it all are 10 Jewish women social innovators, whom we refer to as The Collective, each at various stages of her promise, and all of whom have designed atypical approaches to a range of social issues, from drastically lowering infant mortality rates in Africa, to ending rampant sexual abuse of female and LGBTQ inmates in American penitentiaries, to fighting global sex trafficking in the Jewish community and beyond.

As a group, their reach is global, their impact is immeasurable, and their desire is to leverage their knowledge and experiences to deepen their marks. They are not only uplifting the communities in which they work, but also inspiring others to do the same.

Each of these visionary Jewish women has been selected through JWFNY’s rigorous application and vetting process and will receive significant capacity building and general operating support, professional development funding and skills-building opportunities, connection to a wider circle of potential donors and advocates, and access to a formal and dynamic network of Jewish women visionaries for idea exchanges, support and collaboration.

Our goal is to create a fresh new ecosystem, a vibrant community that is a point of intersection of gender-driven approaches and solutions, Jewish values, and social impact philanthropy. By every measure, it is replicable and has the potential to shake up existing structures that are not yet nourishing the emerging generation of women leaders and innovators to the fullest extent possible, nor fulfilling our shared value of tikkun olam.

As the Jewish community moves toward the promise of 5780, we intend to make it a turning point for Jewish women entrepreneurs by amplifying their voices, supporting their visions, and advancing their leadership so that they can confront some of the most pressing issues and problems around the globe today.

Rachel Weinstein is President, and Debbie Cosgrove, Immediate Past President, Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York.