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Women Advocates Go to Washington

November 12, 2009 By:
Amy Purdy, Jewish Federation Feature
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Mission participants on the steps of the Supreme Court after meeting with Justice Ginsburg.

Federation's women philanthropists demonstrated the power of their collective voices two weeks ago during their very first advocacy mission to Washington, D.C.

A total of 55 members of Women of Vision -- Federation's Jewish Women's Foundation -- and Women's Philanthropy donors took part in the trip. They lobbied lawmakers and met with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all while forging bonds with each other during this one-day mission.

The group traveled to Capitol Hill to advocate for three congressional bills that directly impact the lives of women: The Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act, which would ensure that patients have adequate medical support after breast-cancer surgery; the EARLY Act, which would develop a nationwide public-education campaign to increase breast-cancer awareness and prevention, as well as provide support for young women diagnosed with the disease; and the CLASS Act, which would create a voluntary long-term-disability insurance program for adults.

The advocacy delegation -- designed as a collaboration between the two branches of women's philanthropy at Federation -- also included three trustees from the Jewish Women's Foundation of the Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

Judith Ginsberg, chair of Women of Vision's Public Education and Advocacy Committee chaired the event. Tracy Ginsburg and Shira Goodman of Women of Vision and Phyllis Finkelstein of Women's Philanthropy were co-chairs.

"This trip was designed to put a face on what we, as Jewish women philanthropists do," said Reneé Sackey, president of Women of Vision.

According to Sackey, Federation offers women the opportunity to support both the immediate and the long-term needs of the Jewish community.

Women's Philanthropy focuses on the current critical needs of the community through fundraising for Federation's annual campaign. Women of Vision is a foundation that makes grants to programs that strive for social change and justice for women and girls. Both groups support local and Israeli programs; Women's Philanthropy also supports programs in the former Soviet Union.

Sara Minkoff, incoming president of Women's Philanthropy, expressed the importance of this joint lobbying mission: "As president-elect of Women's Philanthropy and a member of Women of Vision, the mission was an affirmation of the power and influence of a woman's voice. It is so important that we in Philadelphia involve ourselves in all aspects of Federation leadership and philanthropic endeavors."

A meeting with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first Jewish woman Supreme Court justice, capped the day's events.

Earlier in the day, the group met with key legislators from Pennsylvania, Florida and the state of Washington to advocate for three bills due to come up for a vote, either separately or as part of the health care bill. Federation's umbrella organization, the Jewish Federations of North America, is currently lobbying Congress in support of these bills.

Pennsylvania legislators -- including Sens. Bob Casey and Arlen Specter; and U.S. Reps. Allyson Schwartz, Patrick Murphy, Joe Sestak and Jim Gerlach -- presented their positions, answered questions and discussed the bills in detail.

For Judith Ginsberg, women's philanthropy goes hand-in-hand with advocacy.

Tracy Ginsburg, a Women of Vision member and a co-chair of the mission, felt that meeting with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida and the author of the EARLY Act Bill, inspired her and others "to continue donating and advocating because we learned how our money and our voices are making a difference."

The group also met with U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington, the fourth-highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives.

Tracy Ginsburg added that "there is strong support in Congress for legislation that improves the quality of Jewish women's lives."

Susan Schwartz, who co-chairs the Women's Philanthropy Annual Campaign with Ellyn Golder Saft, said the partnership with the Women of Vision Foundation was a "fabulous first experience."

Schwartz, who has been active with Women's Philanthropy for many years, noted that "the two groups complement each other and have a lot to learn from each other. We are planning to continue collaborating -- to strengthen women's philanthropy at Federation."

For information on Women of Vision, call Susan Lundy at 215-832-0849 (e-mail: SLundy@jfgp.org) or see: jewishphilly.org/womenofvision.

For information about Women's Philanthropy, call Bari-Joy Epstein at 215-832-0861 (e-mail: BEpstein@jfgp. org) or see: jewishphilly.org.

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