Women Making a Difference… No Matter the Obstacles

By Wendy Kahn

In June, our giving circle, Women Making a Difference, completed its first-ever grant cycle and celebrated this achievement at the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s Annual Meeting.

Our celebration was well earned! I met the women who would become my giving circle sisters in one of our homes about 18 months ago. At the time, I was a lay leader volunteering for Federation and working at a local synagogue. In January, I changed positions and became Director of Women’s Philanthropy for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and continued as a member of the Women Making a Difference’s Giving Circle. Only then did our giving circle ‘officially’ launch with our group of 9 women each giving somewhere between $1,000 and $2,500.

Since January, the current members have worked with me to retrench and refocus our efforts. Initially, we considered pausing our giving circle and restarting it in a year’s time. Together, we decided to persist because our Request for Proposals was public and we wanted to honor any agency that intended to submit a grant. We wanted to be considerate and ethical grantmakers, regardless of where we were in our process.

Once we committed to moving forward, our group got down to business … and the grant applications came in!

We selected grantees based upon the impact they would have in the Oregon and Southwest Washington community in the focus areas of social justice, women and girls, and Jewish continuity. When all was said and done, we granted $12,480 to five organizations in our community. The projects and programs that we funded will have our stamp of approval as an initiative of Women’s Philanthropy for the Jewish Federation, and we are proud to share them here:

1. Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

New program: Present Future Action Lab

The Present/Future Action Lab will support the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education’s enhanced educational initiative. The particular focus is how civic engagement can lead to positive impact in the lives of others.

2. Oregon NCSY

New program: 6-week education course for parents, “What Your Teenage Daughters Wish They Knew”

The course will educate parents on how to have more successful relationships with their teenage daughters and how to incorporate Judaism into those relationships.

3. The Oregon Hillel Foundation: University of Oregon

New program: Year of Rosh Chodesh Crafts

Hillel will take 12-18 University of Oregon women into the Craft Center (CC) to learn the history of and how to make Judaica. The women will create one craft a month. The mission is to enrich the lives of Jewish women by bringing Jewish experiences to life by creating a space here women can discuss issues, build community, and connect and explore their Jewish selves. The twelve months of crafts will culminate in an event to bring the women together to celebrate Shabbat using the Judaica that they made over the course of the year.

4. Oregon State Hillel

New program: Rosh Chodesh

Women will meet monthly as Jews, and 1-2 times per term as Jews and Muslims, sharing in art, intention setting, spirituality, and community building. The women will grow their relationships with the Muslim community, with the goals of increasing tolerance and combating anti-Semitism.

5. ORA: Organization for the Resolution of Agunot

New Program: Implement an Agunah Awareness Initiative

ORA is a national nonprofit and will launch in Portland to educate the Portland Jewish community about a) the plight of agunot; b) the preventative solution of the Jewish prenuptial agreement, and c) the resources available to those who are struggling for a get. ORA empowers women to protect themselves in the Jewish divorce process and shifts the behavior of the Jewish community in how it responds to domestic abuse in general and agunah in particular.

During our Federation’s Annual Meeting, CEO Marc Blattner began his remarks by mentioning the amazing work of our Women Making a Difference giving circle. Our giving circle is small but mighty with plans to grow in 2018.

Giving Circle members shared reflections about the process and how proud they were to be involved. “We couldn’t have selected a better project than the OJMCHE Present Future Action Learning Lab in today’s climate” said one giving circle member. Another member remarked that she is proud of the impact all of our grants will have in the community and she’s ready to get started again.

With this first cycle officially completed, we are now getting ready to schedule our fall meeting to start planning for our next round. Stay tuned!

Wendy Kahn is the Director of Women’s Philanthropy for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and a first-time giving circle leader. Previously, she worked for several years in development at a Portland-based Synagogue. The Women Making a Difference giving circle launched through Amplifier’s Giving Circle Incubator.