Jewish Federation and Female Hebrew Benevolent Society Help Women Achieve Economic Security

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia supports organizations, like the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, to empower women and care for those in need. (Courtesy of Getty Images)

In the middle of the night, a 101-year-old Holocaust survivor fell on her way to get water and could not move. Without any family in the area or person to call out to for help, this would have been a desperate and possibly life-threatening scenario.

Fortunately, Dora — name changed for anonymity — was wearing her personal Emergency Response System device provided to her by the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society and was able contact emergency services and get the help she needed.

This is just one success story of FHBS, a grantee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Founded in 1819 by the women of Congregation Mikveh Israel and through the leadership of Rebecca Gratz, FHBS remains the oldest Jewish charity in continuous existence in the United States, helping women, like Dora, gain independence and economic security.

According to the 2023 census, 21.5% of the people in Philadelphia are living in poverty. In the last year, housing costs alone have risen by 8.2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Through decades of economic turmoil and instability, FHBS has provided emergency aid grants to Jewish women in Greater Philadelphia. Through these grants, third-party payments cover basic needs, such as rent or mortgage, utility bills, dental services, hearing aids, doctors’ bills, medicine, health insurance and so much more.

“We want Jewish women in our community to be free from financial struggles and move toward economic security,” explained Suzanne Sztul, president of FHBS. “Women can gain peace of mind as they may be dealing with an illness, professional change or personal hardship that makes it difficult to afford these costs at that time.”

The organization works closely with other communal agencies that provide services to community members in need, such as Jewish Family and Children’s Service and Federation Housing, both of which the Jewish Federation supports through grant funding.

For example, many FHBS clients live in Federation Housing, which offers affordable, independent living communities for low- and moderate-income seniors.

“Words cannot express how grateful I am for all the wonderful ways [FHBS] assists those in need,” noted social worker Kelly Gilbert of Federation Housing, which maintains 12 complexes across Greater Philadelphia.

For the past three years, the Jewish Federation has specifically supported FHBS’ emergency aid program with a $30,000 grant from the Jewish Community Fund — the Jewish Federation’s main source of unrestricted dollars that go toward areas of greatest need. Just last year, 85 clients received more than $93,000 through the emergency aid program to help with medical services and supplies, shelter, and other priority needs.

“Our grant from the Jewish Federation helps ensure that we can provide generous grants for our clients’ basic needs,” Sztul said. “With the Jewish Federation’s help, we can empower women to become more self-sufficient.”

This commitment to providing women with the tools for independence is a sentiment shared by the Jewish Federation.

“We are dedicated to empowering women and fostering their self-sufficiency through various programs and initiatives,” noted Sarah Solomon, chief development officer at the Jewish Federation. “Acknowledging the crucial role women play in our society and helping those in need not only enhances their lives but strengthens our overall community and our core values of compassion and equity.”

Acting on these values, the Jewish Federation allocated more than $8 million last year to caring for those in need, one of its core pillars. Through this mission, the organization invests in and partners with agencies that reduce food insecurity, help seniors age with dignity, promote self-sufficiency, connect individuals with social services and more.
But it’s not just an investment in dollars, but also time. The Jewish Federation’s affinity groups and departments facilitate volunteer opportunities with its grantee organizations, host educational programs on socioeconomic issues, and advocate on core issues of inclusion and equity.

“The Jewish Federation is there for our community and our partner and grantee agencies in so many ways,” Solomon said. “We are guided through the Jewish tenet of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and that means uplifting our entire community, especially underrepresented groups who need our support and attention, to create a better world for the next generation.”


Help support the Jewish Federation’s mission to care for those in need, combat antisemitism and global crisis and strengthen Jewish identity by making a gift at


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