Feminist Philanthropy

Three woman’s philanthropy stories we can take as models:

• Instead of costly— and short-lived — floral centerpieces for their annual luncheon, the Sisterhood at San Diego’s Temple Beth Israel decorated tables with stacks of new books, bound with satin ribbons. The books, many of them on Jewish women’s issues, were purchased by the women as a gift to the synagogue library. Likely to raise much more consciousness than even the loveliest of blossoms, this is a great idea for Bat and Bar Mitzvahs and other simchas, too.

• When the adult children of Cleveland broadcaster Rena J. Blumberg wanted to mark their mother’s 50th birthday, they endowed a special program through Hillel at Brandeis University, from which Blumberg had graduated and where she served as a Trustee. Each year during Women’s History Month in March, Hillel arranges an Oneg Shabbat celebration relating to Jewish women, underwritten in Blumberg’s honor.

• In Baltimore, Brenda Lipitz, chair of the long-range planning committee for the national Women’s Division of the Council of Jewish Federations, took matters into her own hands when she realized that male leaders often ignore or underestimate the financial contributions women make to Jewish fundraising drives. With support from private foundations. Lipitz and colleague Lee Myerhoff Hendler contracted for a detailed study of women’s philanthropic giving in their community. “Anything less than a professional audit and report wouldn’t be taken seriously,” says Hendler. The results showed the dimensions of women’s philanthropy . “Women’s Divisions should not be eliminated,” Lipitz asserts. “Women contribute twenty percent of the funds raised by the Jewish federation. Now we need to ensure that women get a voice and a leadership role with their checks.”