Retired businesswoman Jane Weitzman spends much of her time and money supporting a range of charitable causes, but nothing is more important to her than helping Jews in need.
“I believe we’re responsible for our fellow Jews,” Weitzman said in a phone interview from her home in Greenwich, Conn. “Over the centuries Jews have taken care of each other, and I believe that’s why we survived.”
Weitzman, who grew up in Northeast Atlanta, attended Ahavath Achim Synagogue and graduated from Emory with a degree in humanities, is returning to her hometown for a few days in mid-November for “The Sole of Philanthropy,” the Women’s Philanthropy Fall Event for the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
“Federation is very important to me,” she said. “The causes the Federation gives to are very important to me,” such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. Weitzman serves on the JDC board because the organization provides critical, often life-saving aid to Jews overseas.
This year she established the Fellowship for Global Leaders with the JDC and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Under the program, 15 Reform rabbinical, cantorial and education students will study a special curriculum and visit the 70 countries where the JDC operates over the next five years.
Weitzman, who built the retail side of the business for her shoe designer husband, Stuart Weitzman, retired after the Jones Group bought the company in 2012. While her husband continues to work for the global brand, she has traveled extensively to talk about philanthropy.
Women’s philanthropy organizations particularly appeal to Weitzman because, she said, “women are the ones who make things happen.” For example, they can help teach b’nai mitzvah students about the value of mitzvah projects that benefit fellow Jews.
Her presentation in Atlanta, where she still has family and where she visits every year or two, will focus on the importance of philanthropy, particularly Jewish philanthropy.
Beyond Jewish Federations and the JDC, Weitzman’s charitable causes include organizations fighting breast and ovarian cancer — she lost her mother to breast cancer — and the trust board of Boston Children’s Hospital. She also is on the board of 70 Faces Media, the parent company of the Jewish news wire service JTA, of which she has been a longtime supporter.
Weitzman said it’s important to have a Jewish wire service to provide a balanced view of Israel and distribute Jewish stories that no one outside the Jewish press writes.
The timing of her Atlanta visit also could prove lucky: A big fan of Southern writers such as William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor and a former buyer for a bookstore in Boston, Weitzman is the president of the Jewish Book Council, and she’ll be in Atlanta during the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center. She said she hopes her schedule allows her to catch an event or two.
“I’ve loved to read my whole life,” she said, adding that she reads at least a book a week. “It’s a passion of mine, and I’m thrilled to be able to help promote the reading of Jewish books.”
The Jewish Book Council fits with her vision of Jews helping Jews. Weitzman said books provide a Jewish link to the many Jews who lack formal affiliation with the community. “Our culture becomes even more important.”
What: Federation Women’s Philanthropy Fall Event
Who: Jane Weitzman
Where: Spring Hall, 7130 Buford Highway, Doraville
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16
Tickets: $72 ($54 for women 36 and under); open to women who contribute at least $365 as individuals or $730 as households to the 2017 Community Campaign