The Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta will emphasize and promote young women’s leadership development in the coming year, according to executive director Rachel Wasserman.
The organization recently announced its 2016 grant allocations to 16 organizations that further the fund’s mission of expanding opportunities to women. The grantees have various concentrations, but they all concern women’s issues.
The focus on women’s leadership has grown this year and is expected to be a top priority for the fund in the future, Wasserman said.
“Young women’s leadership development is a growing conversation and is something we talk about more and more in making sure we’re building the pipeline for Jewish leaders in the Jewish and general communities and empowering young women to use their voices,” she said.
The Jewish Women’s Fund doesn’t have a quota for specific grantee types but has placed leadership higher on the list of concerns the past year.
One grant Wasserman is particularly excited about is to New York-based jGirls Magazine. “It’s a startup organization. It’s brand new,” she said. “All of the content will be written by Jewish girls and directed to Jewish teenage girls. It will be empowering both in the process and in the content.”
As an online magazine, it will be able to reach girls nationally and internationally. Furthermore, the editorial board — also made up of teenage girls — will receive ongoing mentoring.
The Jewish Women’s Fund provides grants overseas as well as in the United States and this year is giving money to Israeli organization WePower for a project called Women for Future Leadership.
“They specifically work with local female leaders that are already in city council or local government or are interested in entering government,” Wasserman said. The project will provide those women with concrete skills and mentoring to help them gain more say in politics and seats in government. “It’s very specific to get more women in politics in Israel. It’s taking immense strides in increasing these numbers.”
The fund, a philanthropic partner of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, has always granted money to overseas organizations, but this is the first year it is supporting programs in the United States that aren’t specifically centered in Atlanta. The fund also is bringing national programs to Atlanta.
The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot is coming to Atlanta and running seminars about get (religious divorce) refusal and domestic abuse, and Jewish Women International is continuing to run programs on college campuses.
“Part of the program is allowing student leaders to take charge, so when JWI leaves, the work continues. It’s really a grant that keeps on giving,” Wasserman said. “This is a program we feel incredibly passionate about, and JWI does an amazing job with the work they do.”
As well as awarding grants, the Jewish Women’s Fund plans to conduct its own programs to foster its mission. “We are just now sitting down to plan our programming for the year again and looking at the next three years,” Wasserman said. “I anticipate that we will run some communitywide programs that are not just for our trustees around the issue of young women’s leadership.”
The fund also is lowering the financial threshold for younger women to become trustees. “We really wanted to make sure the barrier for entry into our fund was going to be accessible for younger women,” she said. “I hope that as more young female Jewish philanthropists join, we will have that much more of an emphasis on leadership. It’s something that should not only be important for the younger generation, but for older women as they have to worry about who will take over. Women who are tuned in to those concerns about Jewish women and girls are the leaders we want of this community.”
The amount of money awarded has increased along with the fund’s membership, which has grown in the past year from more than 80 trustees to more than 100. With more trustees, the fund raised $40,000 more this year than last year.
“Because we are a collective, the more voices we have in the room, the more resources we have,” Wasserman said.
Each grantee was awarded around $10,000.
“Nothing describes us better than reading our grants and the issues they address and the ways they uniquely consider women and girls. They’re the ones doing the real work,” she said. “We’re so excited about the work that’s going to be done.”
The fund announced the grants in four impact areas.
In the impact area of leadership development:
- ALMA Pre-Army Academy for Women, Jewish Agency for Israel.
- JGirls Magazine.
- Women Activists for Social Rights, Makkom.
- Women for Future Leadership, WePower.
- Leadership development curriculum, Yeshivat Maharat.
In the impact area of economic justice:
- Ehete Center, Achoti (in partnership with the New Israel Fund).
- Securing Israel’s Future Through Employment, IT Works.
- Latet Atid: To Give a Future, Latet-Israeli Humanitarian Aid.
- Financial empowerment program for Haredi girls and young women, Mesila International.
- Crossing the Street, Women’s Spirit.
In the impact area of preventing violence against women:
- Legal education and outreach for civil action against get refusal, Center for Women’s Justice.
- Changing the Culture: Emory University, Jewish Women International.
- Agunah prevention initiative in Atlanta, Organization for the Resolution of Agunot.
- Respect My Red/iClub, Weber School.
In the impact area of educational advancement:
- Project Talya, Society for Advancement of Education.
- Temima FOCUS (Finding Occupations, Careers, Universities, Success), Temima, the Richard and Jean Katz High School for Girls.