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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Anti-Semitism in 2019: An interview with Dove Kent

By Stephanie Blumenkranz

Do you remember the first time you learned about anti-Semitism? If you are like me, you don’t, because as long as you can remember, it was always there. It was woven into my childhood Jewish education the way challah is rolled (or braided) into most Jewish holidays. Lessons, stories, and prayers remind us that long ago we were once slaves in Egypt. We have been fighting ever since.

Evidence that violence against Jews is on the rise is overwhelming. Anti-Semitic assaults in the US more than doubled in 2018, according to the Andi-Defamation League. Over the past six months, it appears as if it has been even more rampant. On a broad, non-violent level, we have heard anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist remarks in the women’s movement. On the other end, we have had two

fatal shootings at synagogues. As much as anti-Semitism has been a part of my life, we are in a place today that I never imagined I would witness.

Dove Kent (right) and me in conversation
at the 2019 JWFN conference.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending the Jewish Women’s Funding Network (JWFN) conference in Chicago with Sue Beller, Board Chair, and Tracey Spiegelman, Board Member and Chair of the Women’s Amutot Initiative of the Greater Miami Federation. JWFN leverages the power of its member funds to act on behalf of gender justice in the Jewish and secular women’s funding movements.

The first night of the conference, I interviewed Dove Kent, Senior Strategy Officer at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. Dove is an advocacy and community organizing expert and a leading voice in the national fight against anti-Semitism. Dove shared with the Network how anti-Semitism takes many different forms. Out of the many forms we see, she explained that she sees the greatest threat to the Jewish people to be white nationalism.

White Nationalism is a social movement that emerged after the Civil Rights movement. White nationalist groups espouse white supremacist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. They believe that white identity should be the organizing principle of the countries that make up Western civilization. The movement seeks to dismantle the current state, and replace it with a white only ethno-state that eliminates Jews and people of color. (Southern Poverty Law Center).

At this point in time, Dove explained, we don’t have the privilege of focusing on less threatening forms of anti-Semitism that we see in the women’s movement, the media, and in many aspects of our everyday lives. It is the severe extremism in the white nationalist movement that requires our immediate and complete attention.

Dove encouraged members of the JWFN to build relations with diverse communities, focus our efforts, and organize with the larger Jewish community. When we come together to combat hate, Dove explained, our voices reverberate. As a result of our conversation, I will build stronger alliances with individuals and organizations of different faiths, and increase my communication with leading organizers around anti-Semitism. I urge you to consider, what will you do?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Grantee Profile: The Taub Center

The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is a non-partisan socioeconomic research institute, developing innovative research and policy options that advance the well-being of Israelis. After finishing a report, the Taub Center will share their findings with key decision makers, including members of the Knesset, government agencies, and the media, to help shape a fact-based public conversation around a complicated issue.
The HF made a grant to the Taub Center to conduct research, and distribute its findings, about one of the most pressing economic issues impacting older Israeli women:  the gender gap in retirement income between women and men.  For the past few years, the Knesset has debated measures to raise the age at which women can receive a pension benefit and a government-funded old age payment from 62 to 65; the retirement age for men is 67.  The Taub Center has said that the focus on retirement age is not sufficient, and that policy makers must consider a range of issues that impact retirement income and which lead to a gender gap in pension payments.
Their report, "From employment to retirement: the pension gender gap in Israel," which was released last month, found that women in Israel are at a severe disadvantage vis-à-vis men when it comes to retirement income. Women's monthly income from job-related pensions is lower than that of men, on average, because women earn lower salaries, go on maternity leave, and tend to retire earlier from the labor market.  Their study found that even if women delay retirement until age 67, married women would receive a pension from their job that is 20% lower than married men, and single women garner pensions that are 27% lower than unmarried men.  Part of this disparity can also be attributed to Israeli law—unlike other developed countries, Israeli insurance companies, which manage and administer private pensions, may consider the recipient's sex when determining the pension payout; since women tend to live longer, their monthly payments are lower.
The Taub Center spells out a couple of potential policy changes that can improve economic conditions for elderly women, including raising the retirement age, finding solutions for maintaining continuity of pension and social security benefits during maternity leave and childcare; and reevaluating the gender aspects of private pensions.
Hadas Fuchs, one of the report's co-authors, said, "The key to narrowing the pension gap is narrowing the gaps that exist in the labor market." 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Former Tannenbaun Prize Winner Sharing Knowledge with NYU Law Students

Dr. Professor Yifat Bitton, a former winner of the Hadassah Foundation's Bernice S. Tannenbaum Prize, and the founder, chairperson,  and senior attorney at an  HF grantee, Tmura—The Israeli Antidiscrimination Center, will be able to share her knowledge with U.S. students this fall. Prof. Bitton, who teaches at the Striks School of Law at the College of Management in Rishon LeZion and has been nominated twice for Israel's Supreme Court, is spending this fall at the NYU, where she serves as Visiting Faculty.  Last week, she moderated a program for NYU Law students about the status of women in Israel.  Above, left, former HF Board Member Ravit Barkama, who also attended the program, with Prof. Bitton in the center.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Hadassah Foundation Awards $515,000 in Grants in 2018!

The Hadassah Foundation is thrilled to announce that it has made $515,000 in grants in 2018! We are proud that since 2000, we have awarded approximately $8.3 million to nearly 100 nonprofit organizations in Israel and the United States that are advancing the cause of women and girls.
The following organizations are receiving grants in 2018:

Legal Aid
  • The Ruth and Emanuel Rackman Center at Bar Ilan University, $5,000: Provides legal counsel to women seeking a divorce. It works proactively to improve policy and practice by educating future family lawyers to safeguard women's rights and advocating for changes in Israeli family law.
  • Center for Women's Justice, $5,000: Pursues precedent-setting litigation and legal advocacy on behalf of women who have suffered unjust treatment, discrimination, or whose basic human rights have been infringed upon when seeking a divorce.
  • Itach-Maaki—Women Lawyers for Social Justice, $20,000: Public interest law organization working on behalf of low-income Israeli women. Itach--Maaki helps women to file employment-related lawsuits and form peer support groups and educates the public about issues affecting women.  They received $5,000 in general operating support, and $15,000 for the Itach-Maaki Community, which enhances and enlarges the community of women lawyers dedicated to advancing the socio-economic rights of Arab-Israeli and Haredi women.
  • Tmura--The Israeli Center for Equality, $20,000--Females comprise only 2% of the prisoner population in Israel, and as a result, the unique needs of women in, and as they leave prison, are overlooked.  With Foundation funding, Tmura will provide female ex-convicts with training about their rights, teach them how to regain financial control of their lives, and access government benefits. 
Policy Education and Coalition Building
  • Adva, $10,000: For the Negev Forum of Women Business Leaders, which aims to increase the economic power of Bedouin and Jewish businesswomen from more than 20 Negev communities, who will receive training and mentoring so they can plan and implement civic initiatives that increase women's economic opportunities.
  • The Israel Women's Network, $24,000:  The Israel Women's Network (IWN), in cooperation with nine other Israeli feminist organizations, is working to preserve the economic well-being of mothers with young children during divorce proceedings.
  • New Israel Fund, Shatil, $15,000:  For the Advancing the Rights of Women in Public Housing program, which aims to protect the rights of single mothers in public housing—an estimated 77% of the families in public housing are headed by single women—and expand eligibility criteria so that more such families can get housing support.  
  • Yedid, $8,000: For the Single Mothers for Change program, which strives to provide greater economic security for low-income single mothers. Working with a network of more than 800 low-income single female parents, YEDID will educate and advocate for public policies to improve the economic security of single parents and their children, focusing specifically on Israel's child-support law.
Workplace Discrimination
  • The Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, $25,000: For an initiative to train and organize the ombudsmen at Israeli companies and organizations so they can better handle workplace sexual harassment complaints. 
  • Merchavim, $15,000:  For the Arab Teacher Integration in Jewish Schools Initiative, which places Arab Israelis trained as teachers—the vast majority of whom are female—in Jewish Israeli schools. This program aims to reduce the high level of unemployment of female teachers in the Arab sector, address a shortage of teachers in Jewish Israeli schools, and promote intergroup relations.
Asset Building
  • Economic Empowerment for Women, $5,000:  For the promotion of asset development among low-income women who manage microenterprises, based on the U.S. model of the Individual Development Account.
  • Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel, $15,000: The Taub Center received funds to write a report that will focus on the differences in women's and men's retirement income in Israel in comparison to other countries, and how this issue, alongside growing life expectancy, may impact the well-being of elderly women in Israel.
  • Yozmot Atid, $20,000: Yozmot Atid received funds for a microfinance and business development project that will enable 50 women living near or at the poverty level to create small businesses through microloans provided by Leumi Bank and through individual business coaching.           
Business Training & Entrepreneurship
  • Microfy, $13,000:  Microfy received support for a women's business forum for nascent business owners from South Tel Aviv.
  • Jasmine, $25,000:  Jasmine received support for its "Zinuk" program, which helps Jewish and Arab Israeli women who own or run small businesses that are between 2 and 6 years old to expand their operations and increase their profits. 
Vocational Training and Job Placement
  • ITWorks, $25,000: ITWorks received funds for its high-tech vocational training and placement program for 60 low-income single mothers.  
  • Tishreen, $25,000:  Tishreen received support for a job readiness program for Arab Israeli women from the Southern Triangle region. 
  • Turning the Tables, $20,000: Turning the Tables received funds for the Yotsrot Atid program, which provides Israeli women exiting prostitution with vocational training, work experience, and employment in the fashion trades.
Leadership Development
  • ANU, $25,000: ANU received funds to provide strategic and technological tools to the members of the Women's Activist Forum, to help them run more effective social and advocacy campaigns.
  • WEPOWER, $25,000: WEPOWER received funds for a program that encourages women completing their first five-year term as city council members to run for a second term, since, traditionally, half of such women do not run for second term.
Leadership Development 
  • Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, $30,000:  The JCH received funds for the Women's POP (Positions of Power) Fellowship, which will engage a group of college-age women from the Russian-speaking Jewish emigre community in New York and focuses on civics, activism, and politics, all through the lens of Jewish values.
  • Jewish Community Center of Chicago, $20,000: The JCC received support for its Seed613 program, which provides teenage girls with entrepreneurial tools and knowledge to develop a socially responsible venture that will impact the Jewish community. 
  • Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, $22,000:  The JUF received support for the Research Training Internship (RTI), which enables teen girls to generate new knowledge about the lives and experiences of Jewish teen girls.  
  • jGirls, $25,000: jGirls received a grant for its online magazine written and edited by Jewish female teens which amplifies the voices of young Jewish women. 
  • Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy at Bar-Ilan University, $32,000: LVJA, an online school for Jewish Studies, received a grant to design and pilot an online course, Leadership Lab, a gender-sensitive, co-ed online course for 12- and 13-year olds that will develop age-appropriate leadership competencies and texts that will feature female leaders.  
  • Moving Traditions, $36,000:  Moving Traditions received a grant for Zazot, a new fellowship program for Jewish girls in grades 10-12, which will provide them with skills, mentorship, and hands-on leadership experience on issues they care about that affect the lives of women and girls.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Hadassah Foundation Grantees Receive Genesis Prize Funds!

Congratulations to the seven current and seven former Hadassah Foundation grantees who were recognized by the Genesis Prize for their outstanding work with Israeli women!

These organizations will receive funding as winners of the Genesis Prize's Women's Empowerment and Gender Equality Israeli Grant Competition, which are being funded by the $1 million annual Genesis Prize award, and were doubled to $2 million in 2018 by Israeli philanthropist Morris Kahn. Grant recommendations were reviewed and endorsed by an advisory committee that included the inaugural Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The 14 current and former HF grantees were among the 37 Israeli NGOs that receiving funding from Genesis; more than 220 groups applied for funds.  The complete list of winners can be found here.
The HF-affiliated awardees are current grantees Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel, Center for Women's Justice, Jasmine, the Rackman Center, the Israel Women's Network, Itach-Maaki, WEPOWER, and former grantees Achoti, AJEEC-Nisped, Isha L'Isha, Kav LaOved, Mavoi Satum, Project Kesher, and the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Grantee Profile: Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy

For the last several years, the Hadassah Foundation has partnered with the Lookstein Virtual Jewish Academy (LJVA), which provides online learning to Jewish students around the globe--to-date, they have served about 2000 students in day schools, synagogue schools, and public schools in five countries!  This cutting-edge organization, which is transforming how Jewish education is taught, has been featured several times in the annual Slingshot Fund guide, which highlights especially innovative projects in the Jewish community.

 For two years, the HF supported the design and piloting of a new LJVA course for high-school age girls: In Their Footsteps: Women's Leadership in the Bible and Today.   Students study Biblical texts about female leaders to explore different conceptions of leadership, and then complete a social action project.  Last year, the HF supported the inclusion of a mentoring component, which enabled the course participants to interact with an adult in their home community in addition to their virtual classmates and teacher.

Although Lookstein has been pleased with the progress of In Their Footsteps, they came to an important realization as they implemented the program: gender norms about leadership are "baked in" from a very young age.  By the time a children reaches high school--the point at which most Jewish leadership programs begin--young people have already formulated notions about leadership that are often based on the stereotypes they witness firsthand. In fact, recent studies indicate that American teenagers hold significant gender biases, particularly about women in powerful leadership positions.

To address this problem, and to create a new narrative about leadership--and, in particular, female leadership--for young people, they sought the HF's support for a new program: Leadership Lab, a gender-sensitive online course for 7th and 8th grader students of both sexes that develops age-appropriate leadership competencies, including advocacy and activism, research and strategy, communication, and collaboration.   

In the first part of the program, youth will examine the live and work of Jewish women leaders who have led organizations, countries, and movements. Because all the leaders studied will be women, these females will become role models and points of reference for participants, thus helping to counter gender biases in the Jewish community.  The second part of the course will offer an opportunity to apply what they learn: the course will culminate with a multi-week simulation of a fictional "Universal Jewish Congress." Students will play the roles of junior representatives, and as such be assigned to task forces and committees. They will be required to research, debate with peers, work on proposals collaboratively, and vote on real-life issues that affect the Jewish community, including those related to gender (for example, compensation in Jewish non-profits.)

To give students explicit skill targets, a deeper understanding of their leadership trajectory, and to ensure that students have the freedom to grow at their own pace and in their own way, the students will be able to earn "badges" as they complete course tasks (like assignments) that will enable them to gain competency in different leadership skills. 

We are excited that through this program, LVJA will help rewrite the narrative for young people about what it means to be a powerful Jewish woman and leader!


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Meet the 2018 Tannenbaum Prize Winner!

The Hadassah Foundation has awarded the 2018 Bernice S. Tannenbaum Prize to Michal Gera Margaliot, Executive Director of the Israel Women's Network (IWN) in Tel Aviv. The Bernice S. Tannenbaum Prize recognizes emerging professionals who have made innovative contributions to advance the status of women and girls in Israel and the United States. Awardees demonstrate a high degree of talent, commitment, and accomplishment in their work. The prize honors Bernice S. Tannenbaum, z''l, for her lifetime of service to the Jewish People; the State of Israel; and Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America.


Margaliot, pictured above, was awarded the prize for her work with IWN, where, as executive director since 2016, she has significantly increased the organization's media presence and influenced public debate about the status of women in Israeli society. Under her leadership, the IWN has established a network for the different feminist groups in Israel, forged numerous partnerships with governmental agencies, created a hotline that provides legal aid to ultra-Orthodox working women, and advocated for feminist employment policies and practices.


Earlier in her career, Margaliot was the parliamentary advisor to Knesset Member Merav Michaeli, and served as her chief of staff when Michaeli was the opposition whip. This experience, along with her LL.B and LL.M from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has enabled her to expand IWN's advancement of policy and legislation in the Knesset and in government ministries.


"I am humbled and honored to be recognized by a veteran and leading organization, the Hadassah Foundation, and in honor of a woman like Bernice Tannenbaum," said Margaliot. "Having the Hadassah Foundation recognize the work we are doing in Israel is most important for us, as we face constant attacks on women rights through gender segregation and exclusion of women from public spheres. Our long partnership is truly empowering and allows us to continue striving and fighting for equality for all women in Israel." 

Established in 1984, the Israel Women's Network (IWN) is a nonpartisan civil society organization working to advance the status of women in Israel by promoting equality and diversity via a range of innovative projects and programs that target change on a policy level. The IWN is responsible for some of the most prominent and precedent-setting gains towards women's equality in Israel over the years, including: admittance of women into the Israel's Air Force; enforcing women's representation in public companies' directorates; updating sexual harassment laws; extending maternity leave for working mothers; delaying the extension of women's retirement age; establishing a National Committee for the Advancement of Women in the Israeli Knesset; and an Israeli Supreme Court decision that shifted the burden of proof from employee to employer in wage-gap discrimination cases.

 "Michal Gera Margaliot is an outstanding leader in the Israeli feminist movement," said Julie Morris, chair of the Hadassah Foundation.  "We are excited to honor her achievements to-date, and feel she has the potential to have an even greater impact on Israeli society."

The Prize provides $500 in general operating support to the IWN, as well as $2,500 to further Margaliot's professional development.  Margaliot will use her Prize to fund her communication skills to increase the visibility of the IWN and the status of Israeli women to a non-Israeli public and the English-speaking media.