Sunday, December 27, 2020

Your Contribution Helps Women Obtain CEO Positions

The idea for the pilot of the Jewish Communal Women's
Leadership Project stemmed in part from needs that were heard
at JWI's Jewish Women's Leadership Conference, pictured above.
(Photo courtesy of JWI) 
To date, 70 percent of Jewish communal organizational professionals are women, yet women only comprise 30 percent of the top leadership positions. This statistic needs to be changed now, as an estimated 75-90 percent of the nation’s roughly 10,000 Jewish organizations will require new leaders within the next five years.

That is why The Hadassah Foundation is supporting JWI’s pilot initiative, the Jewish Communal Women’s Leadership Project, which clears the path for senior-level professional women to ascend to top executive positions in the Jewish community.

In addition to career-building tactics, the project focuses on ways to change the entire field of Jewish communal organizations with safe and equitable workplaces. Emphasis is also placed on ways to effectively mentor  the next generation of women leaders.

I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of the JWI Leadership Project cohort. It’s like being gifted a lifetime of career and personal mentorship in the space of a year...I am pleased to share that I advocated for a raise after the first session and was successful! The confidence and skills came directly from the leadership project. 

-Michelle Malet, Program Participant and Director of Development 
at the Capital Jewish Museum in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Making Israel a Jewish Democracy


CWJ Attorney Adiya Shvartz (right) and Katya Kupchik (left) from Generation 1.5, an organization that represents young, Russian speaking Israelis. This picture was taken in August 2020, after CWJ and Generation 1.5 jointly submitted a petition to grant "Yulia" a Jewish divorce. (Photo credit: CWJ) 

Hadassah Foundation grantee partner Center for Women's Justice (CWJ) addresses the problems that occur when Israel's rabbinic courts violate the basic rights of women. 

One of CWJ's client's, who will be called Yulia, was unable to obtain a Jewish divorce (a get) and she was declared by the rabbinic court as non-Jewish. This declaration was based on an outburst from Yulia's vengeful husband during divorce proceedings. Yulia arrived in Israel from the Soviet Union over 30 years ago and her Jewishness was confirmed upon her arrival.

The rabbinic court's declaration meant that Yulia was caught in an impossible legal bind. She could never: Separate her legal status from her husband, remarry, receive financial support from her spouse, or receive single parent benefits.

In August 2020, CWJ submitted a petition to the Israel Supreme Court. The petition garnered press coverage and outrage from the public. Two weeks later, the rabbinic court decided to release the divorce certificate they had been withholding for two years.

CWJ makes sure the public does not look away from injustice. With The Hadassah Foundation's support, CWJ is turning Israel into the robust, Jewish democracy it is meant to be.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Bringing Women to Israel's Decision-Making Tables

In March 2020, The Israel National Security Council (NSC) appointed 23 experts to the Coronavirus Committee charged with developing the national exit strategy from lockdown, of which not one appointed expert was a woman. 

Two grantee partners, Itach Ma'aki and The Rackman Center, joined forces and on behalf of 13 organizations submitted a legal case to the High Court of Justice to appoint more women to the committee, particularly those who represent Ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities. 

In response, the NSC appointed nine women to the committee, but neglected to include women from diverse communities, leaving marginalized populations unable to protect their concerns. After submitting additional petitions to the High Court, the NSC appointed a new taskforce for the second wave of the coronavirus recovery, which has a majority of women as members and includes  Arab and Ultra-Orthodox women. 

"Including representatives of different opinions and experiences leads to better solutions for the entire population," -Netta Loevy, Director of Advocacy for Itach Ma'aki 

The Israel Supreme Court declares that a lack of diverse representation on the Coronavirus Committee is unacceptable. (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Pool/AFP)

Women business owners protest the Israeli government's coronavirus rulings, indicating they are not in the best interest of women and families (photo credit: Meged Gazani/Haaretz)

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Responding to Continued Domestic Violence in Israel Video


On Monday, November 9th a webinar was held on "Responding to Continued Domestic Violence with the Jewish Women's Collective Response Fund." Watch this video recording of the webinar to learn about the Jewish Women's Collective Response Fund and the impactful grant recipients in Israel: 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Jewish Women’s Collective Bolsters the Fight Against Domestic Violence

written by Lonye Rasch

Bolstered by grants from the Jewish Women’s Collective Response Fund, three Israeli nonprofits are expanding their support for women experiencing domestic violence, a circumstance exacerbated by COVID-19.

The Jewish Women’s Collective Response Fund was convened and facilitated by the Hadassah Foundation, under the leadership of Tracey Spiegelman and Audrey Weiner. In addition to the Hadassah Foundation, the fund includes the Greater Miami Jewish Federation Women’s Amutot Initiative, Israel Lions of Judah, the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Atlanta. Combining their resources and knowledge, the group set out to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on women and girls. Thanks to the Jewish Women’s Collective Response Fund, Tahel, Crisis Center for Religious Women and Children; Maslan, the Negev’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Support Center; and Women’s Spirit, promoting economic independence of women survivors of violence, were each granted $15,000 to further their work in this time of crisis.

As Debbie Gross, the founder and director of Tahel, comments, “It was terrifying for me that women were trapped in their homes with their abusers” as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown and so many men losing their jobs. Within six weeks, Tahel received 557 calls to its hotline. “Women were calling in the middle of the night so their abusers could not hear them,” she relates. And then there were those women who were fearful of calling at all. 

These frightened women needed another option with which to reach out. In response, with the help of the grant, Tahel created a WhatsApp hotline. It is poised to launch shortly, along with a major awareness campaign about its availability. As Gross explains, this is not the regular WhatsApp that we are familiar with; it’s a special version tailored for Tahel with many other features. For example, a woman who communicates with Tahel on this version of WhatsApp can immediately delete the conversation so her abuser cannot see it. But Tahel saves it in case it is needed in the future.

“No woman should have to cry alone,” says Gross. Now, ultra-Orthodox women can have their “kosher phones” configured to enable this app.

The Jewish Women’s Collective Response Fund grants to Maslan and Women’s Spirit provide money to train more volunteers and extend staff hours to meet the increasing demands for help. Maslan Resource Development Coordinator Noam Shmallo reports that her organization has witnessed a “massive” increase in sexual violence, including abuse of children, and she fears “more challenging times ahead of us.” Providing hotline help in eight languages, Maslan gives its volunteers eight months of intensive weekly training, which equips them to respond to the cultural nuances of Maslan’s diverse communities. Maslan is working with Bedouin sheikhs and other community leaders to raise awareness about sexual violence in their patriarchal community and is providing workshops to their schools. “We are trying to prevent the next tragedy,” Shmallo says.

Women’s Spirit Executive Director Tamar Schwartz emphasizes the crucial role that mentors play in her nonprofit. “What women who experience violence need,” she says, “is a loving big sister. And that’s what Women’s Spirit’s mentors are!” Every week for two years, the mentors get in touch with the women and support them through the process of overcoming abuse.  Schwartz explains that Women’s Spirit is unique because it combines the worlds of domestic violence and economic rehabilitation. The number one factor that keeps women in the vicious circle of violence, she says, is economic. These women are dependent on their controlling husbands for financial support. Frequently, the husband incurs debts that the woman doesn’t even know about but is responsible for to the same extent that he is. Schwartz relates that she has been working for five years to change that situation and is optimistic that the courts will finally right this wrong.

The Knesset, with the advocacy of Women’s Spirit, nullified a law that hurt women particularly during the pandemic. The law had dictated that a woman could not receive both child support and unemployment insurance, making things extremely difficult for those women who lost their jobs. Now women can receive both.

Women’s Spirit’s’ end goal, Schwartz emphasizes, is to enable a woman to be independent economically. Once she is, says Schwartz, “she will not return to her violent husband.”

Read more about the grantees and the Jewish Women’s Collective Response Fund.



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Ruth Bader Ginsburg z”l: A Pioneer for Women’s Rights, A Trailblazer for the Jewish People

By Sue Beller, Board Chair, and Stephanie Blumenkranz, Director

"The Jewish religion is an ethical religion. That is, we are taught to do right, to love mercy, do justice, not because there's going to be any reward in heaven or punishment in hell. We live righteously because that's how people should live." 

– Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg z”l told the Sixth and I Congregation in Washington DC, on Rosh Hashanah in 2017.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg z"l seen in her chambers at the
Supreme Court on July 31, 2014. (Photo: AP/Cliff Own)

People of all backgrounds are mourning the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg z"l. A pioneer for women’s rights—notably making the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause apply to women—and a trailblazer for the Jewish community—the first Jewish woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Justice Ginsburg was a champion for the values that The Hadassah Foundation holds paramount. She was a fierce fighter for women’s rights and her contributions were instrumental in ensuring equal protection for women under the law. Justice Ginsburg understood the power of true social change and that to achieve this took time and perseverance, saying that "Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time". She was a giant in spirit, a role model to women of all ages, and her work has paved the way for so many women for generations to come. 

How significant that Justice Ginsburg passed on Rosh Hashanah. Those who die on Rosh Hashanah are considered “a person of great righteousness.” She most certainly embodied the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam – repairing the world. We are more whole, we are more equal, because Ruth Bader Ginsburg has lived. Let us honor the magnificent person that she was by continuing her work for equality and justice.

A bouquet of flowers is left outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC
following the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
(Photo: Reuters/Al Drago)


Thursday, June 25, 2020

Hadassah Foundation Responds to Surge in Domestic Violence Against Women

By Lonye Rasch, Board Alumna

With a dramatic increase in calls to Israel’s domestic abuse hotlines since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the Hadassah Foundation quickly launched a COVID-19 Response Fund, Co-Chaired by Tracey Spiegelman and Audrey Weiner, to help the leading women’s organizations battle this alarming phenomenon. While the Foundation, “an investor in social change to empower girls and women in the United States and in Israel,” has targeted its grants for this year toward gender equality in positions of power, board members realized they had to respond to this need as well.

In a June 24 webinar hosted by the Hadassah Foundation, the directors of the first three organizations to receive COVID-19 grants—Orit Sulitzeanu of the Association of Rape Crisis Centers in Israel (ARCCI), Rafah Anabtawi of Kayan, and Michal Gera Margaliot of the Israel Women’s Network (IWN)—articulated the severity of the domestic abuse problem in Israel, explained what they are doing to mitigate it, and why they remain hopeful and optimistic.

Ms. Sulitzeanu noted that when COVID-19 first hit Israel, the hot lines were silent as people tried to sort out how they were going to handle this new reality. Then the calls began to escalate each week. Lockdown, she explained, meant that social workers were no longer available to help because they were deemed to be nonessential workers; psychological services were halted; hearings had to be cancelled because judges were working under very reduced hours; and boarding schools, where children from abusive homes had been sent to protect them, were now returning these kids to their abusive environments.

Ms. Anabtawi pointed out that Kayan, which bolsters grassroots initiatives to empower Arab women to assume leadership roles in their communities, has witnessed a more than 40 percent increase in both emotional and physical violence against Arab women. One of the problems, she says, is that the Israeli Knesset and the government in general has not made domestic abuse a priority. “The danger of a woman being killed is a real threat,” she says, “if she doesn’t take the necessary steps to ensure her own safety.”

It is not that the government totally ignores the problem. There are laws and initiatives that address the issue. Ms. Margaliot noted that in 2017, for example, a government mandate outlined a nationwide plan to devote millions of shekels toward fighting domestic violence. But only a portion of the money has been distributed.

In 2018, she noted, 30,000 Israelis protested for gender equality. The inability of Israel to form a government for such a long time, Ms. Margaliot added, took the momentum away from their cause. Now with the lockdown creating such enormous uncertainty, coupled with Israel’s economic crisis, the expectation is that abuse will continue to escalate. IWN, she said, has asked the government to host a roundtable to address the alarming rise in abuse, to identify where help is most crucial, and to come up with countermeasures.

Ms. Margaliot cited the case of a Haredi woman, who was abused by both her father and her husband. During this COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a “total collapse of women’s wellness,” Ms. Margaliot said.  And this woman mentally collapsed. “We need advocacy to get the government to financially support psychological services for abused women,” she emphasized.

More than that, Ms. Margaliot related that “we need a basket of solutions. We need money for hotlines, shelters, and housing for abused women. We also need to treat violent men as well as boys who are exposed to domestic violence.”  Noting that violence is a “vicious circle,” she explained that boys who witness abuse in their homes are more likely to become abusers later in life, while girls who witness this violence are more likely to become victims.

What COVID-19 has taught Ms. Anabtawi is how important it is to have empowered female leadership in local communities, who can raise awareness about abuse, both in the home and the workplace, report that abuse, and speak up for abused and marginalized women.

Ms. Sulitzeanu reported that on the very day of the webinar she and her colleagues at the rape crisis centers across Israel provided recommendations to the President of Israel’s Supreme Court in response to a report before the court on how to improve the legal system for victims of abuse. “I suggested that ‘restorative justice,’ which recognizes what happened to the victim, be integral to the process,” she said. In addition, she suggested to the president that all judges be educated as to what constitutes abuse.

Ms. Anabtawi emphasized that her communities most urgently need increased capacity for hotlines, as well as the resources to address the problems that the hotlines reveal. She noted that the local leaders they empower are effective resources for identifying those women who need help and what specific kind of support they require.

An “Aha moment” came to Ms. Margaliot when she learned that the Israeli Government’s National Security Council gathered a group of people to come up with an exit strategy as the  lockdown is being eased. Many were physicians and economists, she said. There were no women among that group and no educational experts, despite the central need to educate everyone. Clearly, she brought out, women need to have a seat at these tables.

Yet, all three presenters remain hopeful about the future. “As we help even one woman, it gives me hope and optimism to face the challenges ahead, “said Ms. Anabtawi. Expressing a similar sentiment, Ms. Sulitzeanu shared a message from one women her organization helped recently. “You put a light in my life,” the woman wrote.

“Things can be different,” noted Ms. Margaliot.  “We can make them different. We just need political imagination, a clear vision, and persistence.”

The Hadassah Foundation will shortly be awarding Phase 2 grants from its COVID-19 Response Fund in collaboration with women's funds in Israel and the United States. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The Hadassah Foundation's Response to COVID-19

Women, especially those on the periphery, have been hard hit by the consequences of the pandemic. Women are disproportionately losing their jobs, gender based violence is on the rise, and marginalized populations are facing growing economic and health disparities. The work of many of our grantee partners is needed now more than ever, while at the same time, these organizations are facing increased financial difficulties.

The Hadassah Foundation signed on to the Council on Foundation's Call To Action: Philanthropy's Commitment During COVID 19, to best support our nonprofit partners and the people hit hardest by the impacts of COVID-19. We take this commitment very seriously and urge other funders to do the same.

In keeping with the commitments in the Call To Action, we have taken the following actions:

Connected with each of the US and Israel Grantee organizations to assess the impact the pandemic has had on them and their recipients so far.
For the duration of 2020, we offered the option to convert project-based grants to general operating support, in order to fund their greatest needs.
They can also chose to expedite their upcoming payment, so they have additional cash on hand in the coming months.

Reached out to organizations in the midst of being considered for funding to open lines of communication, making it possible for them to modify or completely change their proposal to meet a pressing need due to the current environment.

Working on a strategy to collaboratively and creatively allocate funds to meet short-term urgent needs as well as longer term implications of the pandemic.

In the weeks and months ahead, The Hadassah Foundation will continue to share with you the actions we are taking. If you have questions or would like to discuss the actions we have taken, contact us at

Thursday, March 5, 2020

#EachforEqual this Purim and International Women's day

Written by Rebecca Barabas If you follow the Hadassah Foundation on Facebook, you've probably seen our posts about the upcoming International Women's Day. This year's theme, #EachforEqual, is especially important to the Hadassah Foundation and our grantees. As the Foundation's grantees and grant participants think about equality, we see different ways of viewing equality and different needs for equality in the American Jewish and the Israeli communities.
Increasing its significance, the Jewish holiday that most directly celebrates a woman comes on the heels of International Women's Day this year. Purim explores the power dynamics between King Ahashveros and his wives, where we see the need for equality in antiquity. While Queen Vashti's reaction to domestic abuse has JWI's JCWLP program member and Maharat graduate Ruth Balinsky Friedman asking Who is the real hero of Purim and JWI CEO Meredith Jacobs proclaiming #IAmVashti.
Purim's connection to gender is further explored in Maharat graduate Rabba Wendy Amsellem's optimistic view of the Purim story, Back to the Garden: Purim, Patriarchy and a Path Forward. Rabba Amsellem writes: "Esther's power is finally Esther’s power suggests a movement back towards a prelapsarian state in which men and women coexist equally and God interacts with humans freely and in a state of grace."
As Purim and International Women's day are celebrated, join us in being #EachforEqual.

Female pioneers at Kibbutz Tel Amal (now Nir David) (Photo GPO)


Equality in Israel 
Founding head of the Rackman Center Ruth Halperin-Kadri writes about "the myth of the independent and free pioneer and the false notion that women were also equal in Israel" in One Hundred Years of Patriarchy. And as women are still fighting for equal rights today, Halperin-Kadri stresses that the Israeli suffrage movement is a vital part of its history. Center for Women's Justice is working to help women in Israel obtain equality within marriage law. In this video (subtitled in English), CWJ's Rabbi Leah Shakdiel teaches the history of the Jewish marriage law, based in slavery, that traps thousands of women as agunot. 

Equality in Religion
In Behind the Veil of Tzniyut: Using Religious Modesty to Block Women as Ritual Leaders, Maharat's President and co-Founder Rabba Sara Hurwitz writes about "how the interpretation of religious modesty has cultivated an underlying resistance to and exclusion of women assuming ritual leadership roles in Jewish synagogue life in Israel and America." Rabba Hurwitz discusses the laws of tzniyut and why women should be welcomed into leadership positions in religious communities. 

Equality in Action 
Read what and Jewish Feminist Alumnae Network (alumnae of JWA's Rising Voices Fellowship and jGirls) write about equality. In Why Feminism Needs Teenage Boys Emma Nathanson describes her reaction to learning that her male classmates did not identify as feminists and the need for male feminists in the fight for gender equity.