Local Lions Roar Loud in DC among 1,300 at ILOJC
Some of South Palm Beach County’s most resoundingly philanthropic women roared their way to Washington, DC for a few action-packed September days at the biennial International Lion of Judah Conference (ILOJC). Fifty strong, they proudly comprised one of the event’s largest community delegations. They joined more than 1,300 members of their international sisterhood in a powerful gathering of global advocates who care deeply about their people and the Jewish future. The conference also raised $31.5 million among its attendees in only three days.
Easily recognized by their fuchsia-pink, Lion-embroidered pashmina shawls, our local pride landed in an airport full of Lions, with a serendipitous, beaming greeting from Norma Kipnis-Wilson. From that moment, they were swept into a dynamic community of bonding, learning and inspiration. Norma, with Toby Friedland (z’l), co-founded the Lion of Judah Program 46 years ago; since then it has grown to include more than 17,500 bright, compassionate, generous women of all ages from around the world who each contribute at least $5,000 to their Federation’s Annual Campaign.
To start, our Lions enjoyed two days of special activities together. They heard from Sarah Wildman, acclaimed “third generation Holocaust author” of Paper Love, Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind, and explored the impact of women’s artistic contributions through a private tour of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
With testimonials, song and poetry, a memory book, gifts and blue-and-gold pompoms, at a private dinner our delegation also feted our own Emily Grabelsky on receiving the prestigious Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland award for leadership and philanthropy at a conference ceremony.
In conference plenaries and breakout sessions, our Lions heard from some of today’s most respected, high-level speakers in religion, culture and art, business, politics and philanthropy, on issues affecting the Jewish community at home and abroad. The Opening Plenary on September 11 reflected on “15 Years after 9/11: the Global Landscape” with prominent foreign policy and national security experts, including former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright – as well as special musical guest Neshama Carlebach.
Throughout their time in D.C., our Lions realized and exceeded their hopes for learning, bonding and inspiration, in an atmosphere of increased giving and commitment. Of the 17 Lions from around the world who committed at the conference to first-time Lion of Judah Endowments of at least $100,000, six – more than a third – were from South Palm Beach County!
Our Lions returned home energized, galvanized and ready to launch our 2016-17 Women’s Philanthropy season – with an even deeper commitment to their vital work. As advocates and ambassadors, as leaders and philanthropists, they are ready for an exciting new year – a year that will bring new Lions and increased gifts to meet the ever-greater calls for help from down the street to across the world.
Led by local Conference Co-Chairs Eydie Holz and Rebecca Applebaum, and Pre-Conference Activities Chair Barbara Lewin, with Women’s Philanthropy Chair April Leavy and Women’s Philanthropy Campaign Chair Jill Rose, and key staff including Federation President & CEO Matthew C. Levin, our delegation clearly took full advantage of the ILOJC experience.