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Million-Dollar Effort to Promote Women

The newly created Trust for Jewish Philanthropy announced this fall that its first initiative would be to address the barriers that have created a “dramatic imbalance” for women in Jewish leadership.

With $I million in seed money from philanthropists Barbara and Eric Dobkin, longtime supporters of LILITH, the New York-based project—entitled “Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community”—will confront what those involved are calling a “glass ceiling.” It will try to offer women as many opportunities in Jewish communal life as they have found in other fields.

“[W]omen are now seeking and increasingly finding access to high-level professional posts in every arena,” a report about the project noted. “By contrast, there are virtually no women occupying senior levels of professional leadership in numerous sectors of the Jewish community.”

Indeed, of 41 national Jewish organizations surveyed, only five had women presidents, according to a 1997 study commissioned by Ma’yan: The Jewish Women’s Project of the JCC on the Upper West Side, another Dobkin creation. Shifra Bronznick, a change management consultant who has worked on the Trust’s new project, notes that of the largest 47 Jewish Federations, only two have women at the helm. The Trust is a creation of the Federations, under the umbrella of United Jewish Communities.

The new project will involve several different initiatives: an outreach effort to identify possible women leaders and offer them mentoring, coaching and training; assistance to Jewish organizations in recruiting and advancing women; a “Leadership Corps” for training men and women; and an annual collection of data on the status of women in Jewish leadership, to monitor progress.

For the past six years, LILITH has maintained its own Talent Bank of Jewish women. This database of more than 500 names has been tapped by hundreds of callers during that time—testimony to just how starved the Jewish world is for talented Jewish women.