Thursday, December 12, 2013

Special Hadassah Foundation Forum Features Center for Women's Justice ED

This week, the Hadassah Foundation held a special public forum featuring Susan Weiss, the director of the Center for Women's Justice in Jerusalem.  CWJ, a long-term Foundation grantee, sues recalcitrant husbands who deny their wives a religious divorce in Israel's civil courts--seeking damages even after they may have given a get.  

Susan is in the United States promoting her new book, "Marriage and Divorce in the Jewish State."  She also spoke at a conference sponsored by Foundation grantee, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), on Sunday.  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Israel Awarded Prize for Gender Equality

The good news...Israel has been awarded a prize by the Women in Parliament Global Forum for making progress in reducing its gender gap.  You can read the article here.

The bad news, as our grantees can tell you, is that Israel has a long, long way to go. Israel ranked 53 (up from 56 last year) in the World Economic Forum's 2013 Global Gender Gap Index, scoring much lower than countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States, numbering 13, 14 and 23 respectively, but also below Latvia, Nicaragua, Malawi, Namibia, and Bulgaria.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Hadassah Foundation celebrates Bernice Tannenbaum's 100th Birthday

We celebrated Bernice Tannenbaum's 100th birthday at Hadassah House today!  Bernice (seated) is the former national president of Hadassah, Hadassah's liaison to the Foundation, and an all-around force of nature. Bernice, you are forever an inspiration to us!

Itach-Maaki Comes to New York

We were excited to have Samar Qudha Tannous, a lawyer at our grantee Itach-Maaki, visit our office today. Itach-Maaki is a feminist law advocacy organization based in Tel Aviv that fights for the rights of both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel  Samar (center, above) who was in New York for a fundraiser held earlier this week by another Foundation grantee, the New Israel Fund.  Last year, thanks to a grant from the NIF, Tamar studied for her LLM at American University's College of Law.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Israel Raises Minimum Age to Marry--from 17 to 18

Yesterday, the Israeli Knesset approved a bill put forward by Foundation grantee The Rackman Center, which will raise the minimum legal marriage age in Israel to 18, up by one year from the current age of 17.

This bill is the culmination of a three-year effort initiated by the Rackman Center, under the leadership of its founding Director, Prof. Ruth-Halperin-Kaddari. A report prepared by the Center revealed that about 4,500 minors are married annually in Israel, 4,000 of whom are women. About a third of the married minors are Jewish, with the rest mostly Muslim, and approximately 500 of them are younger than 16. This new law aims to end child-marriage in Israel. If enforced properly, the law has the potential to prevent teenage girls from dropping out of school and harming their own future by marrying so young. 

Equally important, the bill bans family courts from approving marriage of minors under 16 in any circumstances and removes pregnancy as a cause for approving marriage for those under 18. The new law requires all relevant government ministries to report, annually, to a special Knesset committee about the measures that have been take to enforce this law.

"The time has come to adopt this law in Israel and prevent early marriage and motherhood among women who are not ready for it either physically or mentally," said Prof. Halperin-Kaddari in lauding the Center's resounding victory. The existing law, passed over 60 years ago, is not at all compatible with the social advancement and research developments which have taken place since then. The passing of the new law is an historical moment in the women's rights struggle in Israel and I am extremely proud that the Rackman Center leads the way to this change along with some very dedicated partners in the Knesset." 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Hadassah Foundation Holds First-Ever Parlor Meeting in Kansas City

Last week, the Hadassah Foundation held its first-ever parlor meeting!  Board Member Karen Herman, left, graciously opened up her home to a group of enthusiastic guests.  We showed the Foundations's video (which you can view at on our homepage), and introduced our Israeli grantees via short clips we had posted on our YouTube channel ( The attendees learned about our work both here and Israel, and how smart investments can make a real difference.

We are fortunate in that our endowment covers our overhead and some of our grant making, but to have greater impact, we want to increase the amount we give away each year. Since our overhead is already taken care of, all donations go directly to our grantmaking!   

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Banner Year for Hadassah Foundation Grantees in #Slingshot1314!

Congrats to all the Hadassah Foundation grantees who were included in Slingshot's 2013-2014 guide!

The newest guide highlighted grantees AVODAH and Yeshivat Maharat, and named current and former grantees Keshet, Hazon, Moving Traditions, and Mayim Hayim as "standard bearers."

This year, for the first time, there was a separate supplement highlighting women's and girls programs in the Jewish community.  Current and past Foundation grantees JOFA (the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance), Jewish Women's Archive, Jewish Women International, Mayim Hayim, Moving Traditions, Shalom Bayit, and Yeshivat Maharat were all on the list.

You can download copies of this year's guide, and the supplement on programs for women and girls here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Hadassah Foundation's Year in Review: 5773

We've created a new newsletter, outlining the highlights of the Foundation's work in 5773! Learn about the achievements of our grantees, see pictures of our Board trip to Israel, and meet our new Board members.

You can find it here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Shout-Out to the Foundation's U.S. Grantees

We just learned that Na'amat Woman wrote a lovely piece that highlights the work of many of our past U.S. grantees, including Shalom Bayit, Moving Traditions, Jewish Women International, and the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance. The article notes that there is a growing interest in the needs of Jewish girls.

You can read it here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CWJ Petitions Israel Supreme Court over Conversion "Repeals"

On August 5, 2013, Hadassah Foundation grantee, The Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ) filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court to render judgment on a question of prime importance: Do Israel's "Special Conversion Courts" have jurisdiction to repeal the conversion of persons converted by them?  Or to render decisions that the conversions of such person are “questionable”? Do such decisions violate the human rights of the convert?

In 2000, S. a European citizen married to an Israeli in a civil ceremony in 1997, completed the process of conversion before the Special Israeli Conversion Courts. A year later, in 2001, her marriage was in shambles. S’s husband, desperate, angry ,  and vengeful, sued in rabbinic court for a reconciliation and, at the same time , informed the Conversion Court that S was “living an open, secular life.” He claimed S participated in Christmas celebrations, wore immodest clothing, and engaged in erotic conversations.

In January 2002, S received a get (a Jewish religious divorce) from her husband in exchange for payment of monies that he demanded. In June 2002, the Special Conversion Court held that S was a “questionable convert,” without the capacity under the halakha (traditional Jewish law) to marry a Jew or a gentile. S appealed the decision to the High Rabbinic Court. More than ten years later, a decision has not yet been rendered.

The Center for Women’s Justice claims that there is no law in Israel which gives an Israeli court the jurisdiction to repeal conversions, or to declare that a person is a “questionable convert.”  Moreover, the state, CWJ claims, should not be allowed to infringe on the dignity and freedom of conscience of converts by subjecting them to interrogations regarding their lifestyle and activities.

Susan Weiss, the director of the Center states:  “This is another incidence of the unholy marriage of Religion and State in Israel. Religion is a matter of personal conscience and the State should not be involved at all in it. Once it is involved, it must take care to protect the dignity and freedom of all its citizens, including converts. It cannot allow an Inquisition to take form. The lives and souls of converts are dear to us.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Step for Forward for Orthodox Women!

The Hadassah Foundation attended the inaugural ordination ceremony at Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution to train Orthodox women for religious leadership.   All three women ordained yesterday have jobs--mazel tov!  And a hearty mazel tov to Rabbi Sara Hurwitz, Yeshivat Maharat's Dean and this year's winner of the Foundation's Tannenbaum Prize--she was positively kvelling yesterday.  

Attendees included Rabbi Jackie Koch Ellenson, the former Board Chair of the Hadassah Foundation; her husband, Rabbi David Ellenson, the President of Hebrew Union College--Jewish Institute of Religion; and Rabbi Sally Priesand, the first woman to be ordained by HUC.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rabba Sara Hurwitz Receives Hadassah Foundation's Tannenbaum Prize

The Hadassah Foundation presented Rabba Sara Hurwitz, the Dean of Yeshivat Maharat, the first Orthodox institution to train women for religious leadership, with the Bernice S. Tannenbaum Prize on June 11.  The Prize honors an outstanding young leader who advances the status of women and girls in Israel or the United States. 

Named in honor of Bernice S. Tannenbaum's lifetime of service to Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, the Tannenbaum Award connects the recipient to the accomplishments of Tannenbaum, who served as Hadassah National President from 1976-80. In the late 1990s, Tannenbaum chaired Hadassah's Strategic Planning Committee that proposed the creation of the Hadassah Foundation, and she now serves as the National Board's liaison to the Hadassah Foundation. The Prize was conceived and implemented through generous contributions from Joan and Leonard Leiman with additional funding provided by The Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation.   

Mazal tov, Rabba Hurwitz!

The Hadassah Foundation Board, with Rabba Sara Hurwitz, center.
Rabba Hurwitz and Bernice Tannenbaum

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Women to Have Voice in Selection of Israel's Rabbinical Judges

Yesterday, two Hadassah Foundation grantees--the Rackman Center and the Center for Women's Justice, celebrated a great victory: a 'Law of Rabbinical Judges' was passed in Israel, ensuring that women are included on the selection committee for rabbinical judges. According to the new law (initiated by Rackman,
together with other women's organizations), at least 4 out of 11 members of the selection committee have to be women.

Prof Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, Director of The Rackman Center said, "We are so happy about the historical passing of this law with the parliamentarian work of [Israeli Knesset Members] Shuli Muallem, Aliza Lavie and Zahava Gal-on. Given the power of the rabbinical courts in Israel--and their monopoly
over Jewish marriage and divorce cases--it is critical that women play a role in the selection process, especially since the (Orthodox) judges are all men."

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, released a statement praising the development.  You can read it here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

HF Grantee Itach-Maaki Scores Win for Israeli Teaching Assistants

After a long battle to make the work conditions and benefits of teachers' assistants (who are overwhelmingly female) in the Haredi education system equal to those of teachers' assistants working in the public system, Itach-Maaki received a precedent-setting decision in the Jerusalem labor court last week, as follows:

The teachers' assistants employed via "Agudat Yisrael" (an association operating educational institutions in the Haredi community and funded by the Ministry of Education) have the right to conditions equal to those employed in standard public schools.  This decision is significant for two reasons:


·         This decision has the potential to bring about a change for thousands of teachers' assistants employed by associations by making their employment conditions equal to those employed directly by the regional/municipal authorities.

·         The decision promotes the definition of teachers' assistants as "education employees" by rejecting Agudat Yisrael's claim that only teachers are "education employees."

Furthermore, the decision is very significant for the teachers' assistants who were claimants in the case, not only because it recognizes their right to receive salaries year-round, like other education employees (instead of being paid only for the time that school is in session), but also for the legitimacy it gives to their battle for rights.  One of the leaders of the battle, an ultrra-Orthodox teaching assistant named Rivka, paid a significant price for her activism on this issue--she was fired from her job.  Itach-Maaki reports that upon learning of the court decision, she described a feeling of victory and legitimacy.  

 The following is a link to an article on the decision in the daily Haaretz newspaper (in Hebrew):

Monday, May 13, 2013

Victory for Hadassah Foundation Grantee Center for Women's Justice!

Supreme Court Mikva Case:
"The Rabbinate Agrees: Don't Ask, Don't Tell"


The Center for Women's Justice and Kolech celebrate a victory for women's right to privacy and freedom of conscience.

In  response to  a petition brought by the Center for Women's Justice and Kolech to the Supreme Court (CWJ v. Minister of Religion, File 9740/11), the Chief Rabbinate has agreed to adopt the policy of  "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with regard to the use of the ritual baths (mikveh). CWJ and Kolech brought the appeal in the name of two petitioners who had been prevented from using the mikveh  because they were single. After filing the petition, CWJ and Kolech attorneys learned that access to the mikveh is also routinely denied to  Reform or Conservative brides on the eve of their weddings.

Though the official position of the  Chief  Rabbinate remains that  single women are prohibited from  using the mikveh,  the Rabbinate has declared that "no woman who comes to use the ritual bath should be asked any questions regarding her personal status  and that the use of the ritual bath must not made conditional on that status"  (Affidavit filed in Response  to the Petition).

Having achieved its goal, CWJ and Kolech agreed to withdraw their petition, though still reluctant about how the new policy of the Rabbinate would be enforced. In response, the Supreme Court made it clear: "… the doors of the court were open, and remain open, to them."

Susan Weiss, the founding director of CWJ and attorney for the Petitioners: "We applaud the new directive of the Chief Rabbinate and pray that we will not have to return to the Court. Any woman who is denied access to the mikveh should let us know."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jewish Women's Foundations meet for annual gathering

The Hadassah Foundation, along with more than a dozen other Jewish women's foundations from across the US and Israel, met for their annual gathering in Chicago.  The Force for Change conference features one day of programming for foundation professionals (pictured above); tomorrow's program will address both professionals and the lay leaders of the funds.  The group owes many thanks to founding Hadassah Foundation Board Chair Barbara Dobkin, who has nurtured this gathering for many years--and who snapped our group photo!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hadassah Foundation at Slingshot Day

The Hadassah Foundation attended Slingshot Day, the annual day-long gathering of innovators in the Jewish community.  Two Hadassah Foundation grantees, Moving Traditions and Keshet, that have been featured in the annual Slingshot guide that highlights innovative programs, also came today.  Above, Deborah Meyers (of Moving Traditions) and Idit Klein (of Keshet.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Jerusalem Intercultural Center

Another new grantee, the Jerusalem Intercultural Center, is working with East Jerusalem college graduates in the paramedical fields (e.g. occupational and physical therapy) to pass certification exams required by Israel's Ministry of Health.  The vast majority of these graduates are female, and want to work in East Jerusalem, which faces a shortage of paramedical professionals.  The director of the JICC, above, describes how the Foundation's grant is supporting the program.  

WIPS at the Van Leer Institute

One of our new grantees this year is the Center for the Advancement of Women in the Public Sphere at the Van Leer Institute.  They are developing an index to measure the disparity between the sexes in a number of areas, including health and employment.  We were thrilled that one of the great Israeli feminists, their co-director Naomi Chazan (pictured above, bottom row, far right) was able to meet with us.

Center for Women's Justice

Our visit to the Center for Women's Justice featured a conversation about the state of marriage law in Israel.  CWJ has been at the forefront at using tort law to get damages in civil court from husbands who refuse to give a get (religious divorce) in the religious court.  Susan Weiss, the group's director, tells how the Foundation's support has helped her organization. 

The Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at Hadassah Hospital

We couldn't visit Jerusalem without touring the new Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower at Hadassah Hospital! We met a doctor who had just performed cochlear implant surgery on a patient (and the happy patient and his father!) and learned about the hospital's services for victims of rape. Several members of our Board, including Dale Marcus, pictured above, are proud donors to the new facility.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Today, we met with our grantee Yedid to learn more about their work protecting the rights of women experiencing discrimination in the workforce.  Yedid lawyer Vardit Dameri Madar (pictured above) introduced us to a client whose job offer was rescinded after she told them she was pregnant.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rackman Center

At the Rackman Center at Bar Ilan, we learned about their work helping women who have been denied a religious divorce.  Here is there Executive Director, explaining the importance of our support.


Our meeting at Adva focused on the challenges that Israeli women face when saving for retirement.  They are using our grant to write a publication--to be distributed in print, as well as via social media--aimed towards working-age women who are trying to figure out their savings options.  Their director, above, explains how the Foundation is supporting this effort.

Economic Empowerment of Women

Long-time Foundation grantee, Economic Empowerment for Women, above, works with female entrepreneurs who are creating small businesses.  They also provide courses on financial planning, and encourage savings among low-income female business owners. 


First stop today was with Itach-Maaki, a feminist legal advocacy organization.  They have been working hard to improve working conditions for teaching assistants, an overwhelmingly female profession.  They also won a Supreme Court decision that permits welfare recipients to own a (used) car, so they can travel to and from work. Netta, a lawyer with the group, explains, above, how the Foundation has supported them.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


We heard Yifat Biton, a lawyer for Tmura, give a lecture to 3rd-year law students about economic violence, a specific form of abuse.  This involves women being the denied the ability to spend their money as they see fit, e.g. a spouse requires them to turn over their paycheck to them, or a father who has been denied a loan will coerce his daughter to take on such a debt.

Olim Beyachad

We met with a number of highly impressive young women who are participating in, or are alumni of, Olim Beyachad, a program that helps place Israeli Ethiopians who are university graduates in jobs commensurate with their education.  Meet one such grad, who now works for the group, above.

Rabbis for Human Rights

We visited Hadera to learn more about the work of our grantee, Rabbis for Human Rights, which is working with a group of single mothers--Israeli Jews from Hadera and Israeli Arabs from Wadi Ara--to secure state-paid child support payments through the conclusion of their high school education. (The government currently makes such payments until the child is 14.) Rabbi Irit Lev of RHR, above, explains how the Foundation supports their work.

IT Works

First stop today:  IT Works in Netanya.  Our grant will help them train a group of low-income women in Hadera, providing them with tech skills so they can get entry-level jobs in high-tech firms.  Orly, above, is a graduate of the program who has not only changed careers, but who also started her own business!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Community Kitchen in Hura--Part 2

The associate director of Shatil, Naomi Schacter, explains the impact of the Hadassah grant on their community kitchen advocacy program.

A Community Kitchen in Hura

Stop number two today was at a "community kitchen" in Hura, a Bedouin town.  The Israeli government now pays for school lumches in poor communities, and there is a push, spearheaded by our grantee, Shatil, to encourage the government to provide catering contracts to local, female-run cooperatives.  This helps keep funds in the community, as well as provide jobs to local women.  Above, the assistant chef in Hura gives us a tour.

A Visit to Sidreh

Our first stop today was to the Bedouin town of Lakiyah, to visit our grantee Sidreh.  Sidreh is using a Foundation grant to support financial literacy and business development classes for local women.   Hear from one of their leaders, above.

For many of us, a highlight of the visit was "meeting" via Skype, a group of Bedouin women taking a financial literacy class. We were sitting in a tent in Lakiya, and they were in a nearby town that had no power--their computer and wireless connection came via a generator.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Hadassah Foundation Begins Israel Mission

The Foundation's mission to Israel began with a visit to Women's Spirit (pictured above) in Tel Aviv, an organizatio n devoted to providing economic empowerment to victims of domestic violence.  Devoted volunteers provide intensive business coaching and mentoring to clients, committing to at least a year's worth of weekly meetings with an individual participant.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hadassah Foundation at JFN Conference

The Hadassah Foundation had a good showing at the annual Jewish Funders Network conference.  We met with colleagues and potential funding partners, and discussed ways to improve our grantmaking.  Tomorrow, we will host a networking breakfast for funders interested in Jewish girls and young women in the U.S.  (See our tweets about the conference! Search #jfn2013 together with @hadassahfdn.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

#WakeUpRH this AM

Full house at Town and Village Synagogue in NYC for a Rosh Hodesh service in solidarity with Women of the Wall.  Several women who were arrested during last month's WOW gathering at the Wall participated in the NYC service.   Fortunately, this morning's prayers at the Kotel were uneventful...but maybe this is because there were several Knesset members in attendance.