Not afraid to turn away from a challenging role, Tracy Gordon has been a devoted leader in the Philadelphia Jewish community for 25 years. As Gordon attests, it was the encouragement she received from those close to her that empowered her to take on new roles with confidence.
It is with this same confidence that Gordon enters her next leadership chapter as chair of Women’s Philanthropy, an affinity group of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia that brings together and uplifts women changemakers to create a better world through giving and hands-on volunteering.
“I am so grateful for all of the extraordinarily talented women I have met through Women’s Philanthropy, who have been my role models,” explained Gordon, who was installed as chair on May 25 during the group’s closing board meeting at Green Valley Country Club.
“Women’s Philanthropy is highly skilled at identifying leadership opportunities for women which are slightly outside their comfort zones, and then providing an encouraging and safe space in which they can inhabit these roles. I was encouraged to take on roles which seemed daunting at first, but ultimately laid the groundwork for my growth and development.”
Among Gordon’s vast experience within the Jewish Federation, she has served as the co-chair of the Board for Jewish Life and Learning — now known as the Committee for Jewish Life and Learning — and as a member of the campaign team and a member of the board of trustees. Within Women’s Philanthropy, she has served as the group’s campaign chair, co-chair of Women’s Leadership Development Program, and vice chair of the Women’s Philanthropy Board. For the last year, Gordon has served as chair-elect of the affinity group, learning from Immediate Past Chair Julie Savitch.
We spoke with Gordon to learn more about her leadership journey and aspirations for Women’s Philanthropy.
What has been one of your most meaningful experiences in Women’s Philanthropy?
One of the most meaningful experiences I have had in Women’s Philanthropy was being asked to share my “camp story” at a Pomegranate Society event a few years ago. I shared that I had been the recipient of a scholarship from a Jewish philanthropist when I was 10 years old. That donor’s generosity enabled me to attend Jewish overnight camp for nine years, which ultimately changed the course of my life. At camp, I met my future husband, George, when we were 12. We would go on to create a Jewish home, and raise four children who attended that same overnight camp (Camp Harlam) and Jewish day schools. Any contributions I have been able to make to the Jewish community originated with that single act of philanthropy 45 years ago. Sharing my personal experience was not only profoundly meaningful in terms of empowering me to “own my own story” but also felt deeply significant in its potential to inspire others to appreciate the power of their own philanthropy.
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get involved with Women’s Philanthropy?
My advice to someone looking to get involved with Women’s Philanthropy is to take the initiative. Please do not sit back and wait to be asked. I remember when I was new to Women’s Philanthropy, and I was hoping to be asked to take on roles in the organization. After feeling “passed over” a few times, I shared with my husband that maybe I should direct my energies elsewhere. Fortunately, he gave me the excellent advice to take the first step and reach out to the lay and professional Women’s Philanthropy leaders, express my interest in getting involved, and explore ways in which I could contribute to the organization. My inquiries were met with warmth and enthusiasm. As chair, I encourage anyone interested in deepening their involvement with Women’s Philanthropy to please reach out to me, Lindsay Davidman (director of Women’s Philanthropy) or Sarah Lefkowitz (development associate for NextGen and Women’s Philanthropy). We are always looking to engage new leaders in our work.
Why do you give to the Jewish Federation?
Although our family supports many different Jewish institutions and agencies, our gift to the Jewish Federation is a philanthropic priority, largely due to the breadth of its impact. The Jewish Federation provides the infrastructure for the entire Philadelphia Jewish community and is uniquely positioned to marshal resources and comprehensively meet the community’s needs at a moment’s notice. Having worked in allocations for a decade as co-chair and member of the Board of Jewish Life and Learning, I have a deep respect for the exhaustive vetting process through which the Jewish Federation’s allocation decisions are made. I trust that the Jewish Federation values my commitment and will be a responsible and visionary steward for my investment in Jewish continuity.
As the new chair of Women’s Philanthropy, what do you hope to accomplish for the next two years of your term?
My primary objective as chair is re-engagement. Women’s Philanthropy, under Julie Savitch’s outstanding leadership as past chair, has been impressively successful in navigating the unique and unprecedented challenges of COVID-necessitated virtual programming. Nevertheless, over the past few years, we have become less connected. Our priority moving forward is providing meaningful opportunities for self-identifying women to connect with one another, hopefully in person, in supporting the most pressing needs of the Jewish community.
Personally, I am deeply committed to the values of expansiveness and inclusivity. I hope to broaden our tent, and help create a space in which women who have not felt drawn to Women’s Philanthropy in the past will be inspired by the relevance, transparency and consequential nature of our work. I have found my involvement in Women’s Philanthropy to be deeply gratifying and feel blessed to help galvanize others to join us in building and sustaining a strong and vibrant Jewish community.
For more information about Women’s Philanthropy, contact Lindsay Davidman, director of Women’s Philanthropy, at [email protected] or 215-832-0502.