While juggling family, professional and personal commitments, many women have difficulty finding time to focus on what inspires them as Jewish individuals. With this in mind, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia's "Women's Journey to Israel" earlier this month gave 14 multi-tasking women philanthropists the opportunity to deepen their passion for Israel while bonding with their Israeli sisters and each other.
From March 6 to 12, mission participants saw Israel from a women's perspective. Highlights included a panel discussion with four women leaders of Israeli NGOs, a culinary tour with a Jersusalemite female chef, dinner with female lone soldiers and a visit with one of the Israeli Air Force's 17 female pilots.
Julie Savitch, who co-chaired the mission along with Bunny Levyn, said, "I was really impressed by how smoothly Federation ran this mission. There were so many people in Israel working to make sure we had memorable, behind-the-scenes experiences that other groups just don't get."
According to Marni Davis, interim director of Federation's Women's Philanthropy group who co-sponsored the mission with Federation's Women of Vision Foundation, the goal of the program was to help the women "gain more knowledge of what Federation funds in Israel. I think we successfully accomplished this. People felt a close connection to where their funding goes, and took real pride in being Federation supporters."
For instance, participants visited the Yemin Orde youth village, which Federation funded after the devastating Carmel fire, and an Orr Shalom home for at-risk children purchased with Federation funds.
"Before the mission I didn't have a picture in my mind of Orr Shalom," said Savitch. "Now I do. When you see the children with their arms around each other, when you see how comfortable they are with their caregivers and how their lives were saved by this home, it's just indescribable."
Mission members have invested in the Jewish community through Federation's two women's groups -- Women's Philanthropy, which addresses immediate needs through Federation's annual campaign, and Women of Vision, the Federation Endowments Corporation's Women's Foundation, which targets funding to programs that support Jewish women and girls.
"Women of Vision and Women's Philanthropy are always looking for opportunities to collaborate and increase our knowledge of our philanthropy and how it makes a difference," said Susan Lundy, Federation endowment officer. "We thought the best way to do this was to go to Israel together, and it was."
Mission participant Suzanne Feld, a member of both Women of Vision and Women's Philanthropy, was a first-time visitor to Israel. "It was a fascinating and amazing trip," said Feld. "I walked around with my eyes, and my mouth, wide open. It was a formative experience."
"I thoroughly enjoyed being able to see both the fruits of our labor and what more needs to be done," added Feld. "What was loud and clear was that the Israeli people live under constant stress. The trip reaffirmed the importance of what we do as Women of Vision and Women's Philanthropy members."
For more information, call Marni Davis at 215-832-0859 or Susan Lundy at 215-832-0849.