By Joy Sisisky

Not content to stand idly by and watch the Ebola virus disease crisis unfold, last week the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York‘s global giving circle, Isha Koach (Women of Strength), made its first grant of 2014 in response.

The 17 Isha Koach members, all Jewish women philanthropists committed to supporting the world’s most vulnerable women and girls, granted $10,000 in emergency relief to AFYA Foundation, founded and led by Danielle Butin, to protect healthcare workers on the frontline of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone. The grant will be used to help ship $1.7 million worth of critical, life-saving supplies and includes 170 pallets of personal protective equipment. The supplies were loaded on a cargo jet at JFK last week landing in Sierra Leone to be distributed to Ebola Treatment Centers in the capital of Freetown by the Ministry of Health and Ebola Task Force (NGO’s and government officials).

To date, there have been 5,235 cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone alone and 1,500 deaths. In the current West African outbreak, as many as 75% of Ebola victims are women. The vast majority of nurses in the affected region are women, and it is women who are most often the primary caregivers nursing their husbands, children and other family members at home putting them at high risk for contracting the virus.

Isha Koach members felt that this was an important and time-sensitive opportunity to respond to the Ebola crisis through the lens of Isha Koach’s special and unique dual mission to support the leadership of Jewish women social entrepreneurs who founded and lead nonprofit organizations serving the needs of the world’s most vulnerable women and girls. The Jewish community is fortunate to have Jewish women leaders like Danielle Butin who show courage and determination in the face of enormous challenges to reach populations devastated by war, natural disaster and disease, no matter where they are.

As a Jewish philanthropic organization with a feminist mission, JWFNY Isha Koach could “not stand idly by” (Leviticis 19:16) when so many women are struggling to care for their families and their communities, and to survive, as the Ebola crisis deepens.

Joy Sisisky is Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York.

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