If you walk around Boston on any given day, you will see many people wearing shirts with slogans like, “Women are the future,” “Girls run the world,” “Nevertheless, she persisted” and the list goes on. You will also walk past offices of several Jewish nonprofit organizations that are building a better future, changing the world and persisting to gain justice. Jewish organizations like Hebrew College, CJP, Jewish Family & Children’s Service, Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters, Gateways and so many more.
Before recently, as a young Jewish woman, I wholeheartedly believed in the slogans on the shirts and in the importance of the work of these nonprofits that I was brought up to support through giving tzedakah. However, I never realized how true the words on the shirt are: women really are the future, running and persisting to lead Jewish nonprofits. This realization came to me recently when I was attending my Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston (JTFGB) meeting at Hebrew College.
JTFGB offers Jewish teens from all over the Greater Boston area the opportunity to learn how to successfully run a foundation with the grant-making cycle throughout the year. Every month, we meet to learn about different steps of the soliciting process, how to use and write RFPs, what goes into a lucrative fundraising campaign and more. Every year, each of the three boards of around 25 high-schoolers decide on an issue area which we plan to raise money for and donate our fundraising, through grants, to nonprofits that act in accordance with our mission. At our meeting in January we had the opportunity to hear from 15 professionals and/or volunteers who have dedicated their life to this work as they spoke about their experiences and advice in the marketing, soliciting, giving and grant-making processes. All but two of the 15 speakers, who lead capital campaigns, raised millions of dollars or ran Jewish and secular nonprofits, were women.
At the meeting, all of the board members of JTFGB went around to different workshops where we learned about the tools needed to succeed in fundraising and the nonprofit sectors. We learned how to solicit money, approach fundraising and organize funds from women like Elizabeth Jick, the managing director of Zions Bank Public Finance, arranging tax-exempt and taxable financing for nonprofits nationwide. Elizabeth is an avid leader on nonprofit boards such as Gann Academy, Facing History and Ourselves and Brandeis University, as well as the Advisory Council Co-Chair of JTFGB. Elizabeth was instrumental in helping to bring this program to Boston four years ago, so it was really special to have her join us.
We also heard from women such as Leah Oko, who for the past 11 years has been the executive director of major and principal gifts at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Currently she is focused on raising $250 million for a new clinical tower for the hospital as part of a comprehensive $750 million campaign. I attended a workshop session with Susan Musinsky, the executive director of the Social Innovation Forum, where she leads with a marketplace approach to engaging a broad community in the work of social change. I was struck by the magnitude of success that all of these women showed me were possible by utilizing the same techniques that we, at JTFGB, learn about and use. It was empowering to see how an industry that can often be seen by outsiders as slow and ineffective is actually making the important change in the world that for-profits are not as likely to focus on.
Other speakers who led workshops and sat on the panel at the meeting included a mix of professionals and extraordinary lay leaders—Arinne Braverman (CJP), Dr. Kathy Cohen, Liz Cohen (The Children’s Room), Jeffrey Drucker (Gerard Management Group and Board Chair at Hebrew SeniorLife), Elisa Heath (CJP), Ruth Maffa (JF&CS), Elana Margolis (BCBS Massachusetts and formerly JCRC), Leslie Pucker, Gail Schulman (Gann Academy), Ellen Segal, Rachel Segaloff (Temple Isaiah and formerly Brandeis), and Ben Sigel (Mintz Levin). The combination of their work and personal volunteer experience totals over a hundred years and dozens of unique organizations all around the Greater Boston area. This one meeting alone truly offered quite an impressive group of guests for us to learn from, and I feel fortunate to have been there with all of them in person.
As mentioned above, out of the 15 total speakers from that day, it was an overwhelming majority of women. This proves that so many large (for-profit and nonprofit) organizations (Jewish and non-Jewish alike) in the community are led by strong women in different capacities. It’s becoming much more easy and recognizable to find women in leadership roles within our community. For example, Leah Goldstein, the (female) director of JTFGB, is a mentor and role model as she has guided the growth and success of the program over its three years. Even more so, JTFGB is a community program of Hebrew College, which just welcomed its first female president, Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld, in its almost 100-year history.
JTFGB has shown me over the past two years how much responsibility for progress and positive change a group of Jewish teens holds, and how much can be achieved when we learn lessons from the best in the field. I realize the importance of these Jewish women not only as positive role models for us in this program, but as agents of change in our communities.
The notion of a woman of valor is a key concept in Judaism, one we traditionally sing about every Shabbat. It is clear that the Greater Boston Jewish community is filled with so many unique and amazing women of valor. I feel so lucky to be a part of this program as a growing Jewish teenage girl in this world today. JTFGB truly gives me the opportunity to work with and learn from all of these incredible people in the field—these women (of valor) in power.
Emma Sullaway is a sophomore at Gann Academy in Waltham. She plays volleyball, lacrosse and the trumpet. She serves on the student council and loves the Patriots almost as much as tikkun olam.
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