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"Eshet Chayil," the Women of Valor Around Us

Next week, I’ll be headed to New York City with 65 of our community’s brightest, most caring and dedicated women. So you might be surprised to learn just how at home I am as the only man among the largest delegation (outside the NYC area) to the biennial International Lion of Judah Conference (ILOJC) – unless you’ve met my mother or my wife.

My mother is one of the most accomplished women I know. A past Florida president of Women's League for Conservative Judaism, she instilled in my brothers and me the obligation each of us has to care for our own Jewish community. Mom went on to create a successful career as an author, writer and travel industry expert, as well as a grandmother of nine. An attorney, mother, friend and also Israeli, my wife Danielle served her country in the IDF. Today she teaches our three boys the best of what it means to live life according to Jewish values.

But the accomplished women in my family are hardly an exception. Throughout Jewish and secular life, and at the core of our Federation and community, we are beholden to Jewish women for their vision and contributions. We celebrate their groundbreaking accomplishments in government and business, religious life and the arts, nonprofits and philanthropy – as well as within their Jewish homes.

And examples of an "Eshet Chayil," A Woman of Valor, abound within our Federation family. Recognizing the overwhelming needs emerging in this burgeoning Jewish community, in 1975 our women actually got organized four years before this Federation began. Margie Baer brought the brand new Lion of Judah program here in 1982, and our women continue to build their unmistakably integral roles in leadership and philanthropy as they build our Jewish community.

The Federation’s top lay leadership starts with Board Chair, Ellen R. Sarnoff and Anne Jacobson, our Vice Chair, Financial Resource Development – both past Women’s Philanthropy (WP) Chairs. Emily Grabelsky took the WP gavel from Meryl Gallatin last spring, and Wendy Pressner is our WP Campaign Chair. Chairing our newly revitalized King David Society (KDS) is Barbara Feingold.

Remarkably generous women’s gifts also lead much of our philanthropy. Dorothy Seaman named the Department of Women’s Philanthropy, and Toby Weinman Palchik named our Center for Jewish Philanthropy. With their husbands, Anne Jacobson named our Jewish Community Foundation and Marilyn Pechter endowed our Safety Net Giving Center last year. The annual Major Gifts Event was just named for the Sandler Family, which includes philanthropic leaders Phyllis Sandler, Robin Rubin and Amy Ross. The Marleen Forkas Chair of Contemporary Jewish Issues provides top keynote speakers each year for the Lion of Judah Luncheon.

Women also excel in many top professional roles on this campus. Our campaign is led professionally by Marla Weiss Egers, Executive Vice President of FRD, and Jennifer Koenig, Vice President of Campaign. Robin Agronin recently joined us as Director of Women’s Philanthropy. Our Founding agency top professionals are Karen Feller at DKJA, Dr. Debra Hallow at JARC, Danielle Hartman at JFS. At the JCC, Stephanie Owitz, Immediate Past President and Cindy Bergman, Associate Executive Director, have just brought the agency through an interim period.

Another Eshet Chayil is Beverly Shapiro. One of the joys at the ILOJC next week will be her receipt of the annual Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. A Lion and LOJE involved with our WP for 34 years, she is also a recipient of the UJC (JFNA) National Endowment Achievement Award.

It will truly be my honor to join the loud roar of our proud, strong Lions in New York next week. They are among our community’s more than 700 Lions of Judah, one of the largest Lion prides in the country. Many are among our 260 LOJEs who put us at #1 nationally in endowed Lion gifts. And they’re among the diverse, vibrant Federation women donors at all levels who represent about half the dollars in our Annual Campaign.

Even if you aren’t joining us, don’t miss out on the exciting news from New York. Like our Women’s Philanthropy Facebook page to stay up to date with news and photos from our ILOJC delegation.

And please don’t hesitate to connect with me about building our community together, at asktheceo@bocafed.org.


Matthew C. Levin
CEO Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County

Past Messages from Matt