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Lions Take Pride in Setting the Pace for Philanthropy

November 4, 2010 By:
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Sherrie Savett (center), Federation vice president and Lion of Judah donor, with Women's Philanthropy affinity co-chairs Ellyn Golder Saft (left) and Susan Schwartz (Photos by Scott Weiner)

Sara Minkoff, president of Women's Philanthropy, told the more than 135 Lions of Judah -- women who contribute a minimum personal gift of $5,000 to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's annual campaign -- that they have the power to transform lives every day through their philanthropic support. She recalled for the group, who gathered on Oct. 20 at Philadelphia's R2L restaurant for their annual luncheon, an urgent telephone conference call she received in the middle of last winter's snow emergency that underscored the validity of her statement.

The call was a cry for help from the JCC Klein/Stiffel Center at a time when the City of Philadelphia was essentially shut down.

"The agency needed $5,000 immediately to purchase three weeks of food supplies for clients at risk," she said, adding that within an hour of receiving this request, an emergency allocation was approved. "On that snowy day, I understood the true power of community giving, and I felt the presence of each and every one of you in the room today," she said.

Moved by Minkoff's message, the women raised a record $1 million for the this year's campaign.

At the luncheon, Lana Dishler, a woman whose name is synonymous with the free Soviet Jewry movement both locally and globally, was honored for her decades of involvement as a volunteer and philanthropist. Her friend and fellow advocate of Soviet Jewry, Connie Smukler, presented her with the prestigious Kipnis-Wilson Friedland Award.

In addition to Dishler's service as co-chairperson of the Soviet Jewry Council of Philadelphia and Summit Sunday, the March on Washington for Soviet Jewry, her Jewish communal portfolio reflects her diverse passions and interests.

She is serving as a co-chair of the Feb. 15 performance of "The Thomashefskys," a multimedia evening of music at the Kimmel Center, which will also feature a special tribute to both Connie and Joe Smukler. She has also served Federation with distinction as a past president of Women's Philanthropy; former secretary and vice president of Federation; and as a co-chair of Federation's Mitzvah Mania day of community service and its Centennial Celebration Committee.

Dishler told the audience, which included 46 women under the age of 50, of the "gut-wrenching work" performed by the Soviet Jewry Council to secure the release of such "prisoners of conscience" as Natan Sharansky, Lev and Marina Furman, and thousands of others, helping them resettle in Israel and the United States. She described the exhilaration she experienced as these men and women began new lives in countries that allowed them the freedom to live as Jews.

"We took the forces of history in our own hands and changed the course of their lives," she said.

Avraham Infeld, president emeritus of Hillel International and current president of the Chais Family Foundation, was the keynote speaker for the luncheon. Federation Vice President Sherrie Savett offered greetings.

Joyce Rosenberg and Sharon Taffet served as co-chairs of the luncheon.

Stacy Frankel and Nancy Selarnick co-chaired the "50 Under 50" effort to secure the next generation of Lion of Judah donors.

To learn more about future Women's Philanthropy programs and events, call Marni S. Grinberg at: 215-832-0859 (e-mail: mgrinberg@jfgp.org).

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