Reviving Female Philanthropy
by Karen Goodkind, UJIA Trustee for women’s engagement and Chair of UJIA Women and Lion of Judah UK
This article has first been published in South Hampstead Shul magazine.
“Throughout history many women have been activists of change, women hold families and communities together,women take action against injustice and continue to fight for equality in every area of life. Women give in so many ways, we support each other, we care, we have wisdom and we empathise with those in need. So when it comes to philanthropy why should we be any different?”
As long ago as 1993, Lilith an American independent Jewish feminist magazine interviewed 100 women and published an article by Susan Weidman Schneider entitled “Women’s giving to mainstream Jewish organizations”, it was republished in 2016 because the findings are still relevant today. It assessed the giving patterns of women who had wealth stating that “Jewish women control more wealth than ever before – as wage-earners, beneficiaries of estates, directors of companies, board members of foundations…..however Jewish organizations are not examining women’s patterns of philanthropy and exploring ways to engage them.” The article concluded that women think and give differently to men, their donation is more personal, less about names on plaques or buildings and more about the impact. They want to give to causes they believe in and care about, they want to understand the details and ask more questions. “Men fund the status quo, women fund change. Men give to preserve institutions, women give to create programmes” So if we want to create a change in women’s giving, we have to examine attitudes.
My history with UJIA spans 15 years as an active lay leader, developing the Ethiopian Bar and Batmitzvah programme (EBBM) and leading an annual Women’s Missions named* Mission Possible, both raise the level of engagement with UJIA and bring in donations. But Women fundraisers for UJIA are rare since the once thriving professional Women’s Division ceased to exist more than a decade ago. Charitable organisations historically rely on their lay leaders to support the professionals, engage peers, fundraise and drive change. It’s vitally important to be nurturing new generations of leadership, so when in 2015 the Chair of the UJIA Annual Women’s Lunch stepped down, it was alarming that there wasn’t a queue of women ready to step up. Where are they, I thought? This is UJIA and the women’s event was a flagship institution! Sadly no longer, perhaps the women in our community felt that leadership and fundraising wasn’t for them? Or perhaps Israel being so accessible and almost 70 years old with a difficult political narrative, was not a sexy enough cause to champion for? Whatever the reason, we had lost a generation of lay leadership and something needed to be done.
So when UJIA invited me to join the Trustee board I asked to be responsible for Women’s Engagement which started a journey that continues to be both in equal measure extremely inspiring and challenging. We first looked to change the Women’s Lunch to an evening event so that all generations could attend, and created “Ladies Night”. It was a fun gala style event, where women of all ages and from all communities could enjoy a celebratory style fundraiser, championing Jewish women. We created a young leadership award in the name of the late and great Joy Cohen Z”L who chaired the UJIA Women’s division in its hay day, and we included in the appeal narrative that “UJIA is about us, our community is shrinking, our youth are disengaged and if we want a Jewish future, we have to support UJIA’s work whose mission it is to create a strong British community with a lifelong connection to Israel.” Ladies Night 2016 set the bar high, we added a third more to our numbers with over 300 women attending in their 20’s to their 80’s, and we doubled the annual women’s donations. Three more equally successful women’s dinners have followed which this year was held at the V&A offering a private viewing of the spectacular *Christian Dior exhibition.
Later in 2016 I flew to Washington with our now UJIA Chair Louise Jacobs to attend the International Lion of Judah (LOJ) conference. Lion of Judah is an international network of philanthropic women of all ages who put Jewish values into action. There are *17,500 LOJ in 51 States of North America and 34 countries around the world, so who better to learn from. But first we had to become a LOJ, which was a problem as there were no Lions in London! Instead, as home owners in Israel, we were eligible to become members of LOJ Israel and together with* 25 incredible and fun Israeli women and 1200 Lions mainly from North America, we experienced a powerful and uplifting unforgettable conference. On the last day we sat in on a caucus, which is the term for a group fundraising session and witnessed the women talking very personally about crises in their own lives and why they want to be a Lion and support Jewish causes. Some of the women were emotional and cried, Louise and I were overwhelmed, this was women’s philanthropy in force because for many women, being a Lion was a personal responsibility and a life choice.
During the time we were in Washington, we met with many lay leaders, professionals and LOJ women and asked many questions to learn about women’s philanthropy and the engagement that it brings to women around the world who wish to lead through their dollar contribution. Their donations support causes in Israel, their communities and the rest of the Jewish world. We learnt that 33% of American women feel it’s their responsibility to give in their own name, whilst in the UK it is estimated that it is less than 5%. We returned empowered to bring LOJ to the UK and create a model that would generate collective women’s philanthropy and change attitudes towards women’s giving.
After 18 months of critical thinking and tough negotiations, we successfully launched a new model of Lion of Judah UK in January 2018. UJIA made many concessions and I’m so proud to have the organisation as the UK partner for this inspirational network championing women’s philanthropy and engagement. To date, 55 women have become LOJ, and we are roaring because together our philanthropy has so far raised an incredible £241,000. *Our UK Lions choose their own projects with 50% going to girl’s empowerment programmes in Israel, 30% supporting programmes that engage youth with Israel and develop leadership and 20% to smaller UK community charities where modest grants make a difference. * The donations made from the 20% revenue have already helped 7 inspiring charities including a drama therapy cabin to Gesher school for children with learning disabilities.
In April this year Michelle Rosenberg joined the professional team to head up UJIA Women. In her spare time Michelle is a writer and women’s historian with 3 books published. It’s fantastic to work with Michelle who is passionate about women and overflowing with ideas to engage women with different interests. We want to promote all levels of giving, and a culture of individual responsibility even if traditionally charitable giving is with a husband, family or partner. Our goal is to engage women with our Campaign, generate lay leadership and encourage giving no matter how big or small the amount because the small donations are just as valued. We have a lot to do although in some ways still at the beginning of our journey to change attitudes about women’s philanthropy. I expect that many women will continue to resist the idea, just as much as many will embrace it. But what is clear from the huge amount of women I meet, whether they are retired, young, working or raising a family or both is that there is an appetite for women’s collaboration for causes they care about. It’s exciting that once again we are beginning to see women stepping up to champion the work of UJIA and all they do to make us proud strong British Jews with a lifelong connection to Israel.