Oct 8, 2013

65 Local Lions Part of Record-Setting Attendance for Conference in New York City

South Palm Beach County Sends Largest Delegation from Outside NYC Area

Nearly 20 years ago, an innovative event transformed the landscape of National Women’s Philanthropy (NWP) at Jewish Federations. Women at the highest levels of giving from across North America – Lions of Judah – were invited to convene in Washington, D.C. to bond, network and motivate even greater levels of philanthropy.

As the chair of Jewish Federations’ national women’s campaign (a predecessor of NWP), Carole Solomon led the call for this national gathering of Lions – strong, dynamic women who were passionate about helping the Jewish People. She and conference chairs Lois Zoller of Chicago and Susan K. Stern of New York (who today serves as The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA)’s national campaign chair) envisioned a room filled with pioneering, dedicated Jewish women leaders who were committed to changing the world. They hoped for a few hundred participants.

Instead more than 1,000 women showed up. The inaugural Lion of Judah Conference (“International” would be added two years later) in 1993 became Jewish Federations’ signature gathering of highly energized, deeply motivated women, and raised millions of dollars for the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign.

“The Lion of Judah Conference really proved that women’s philanthropy was a very serious entity of Jewish Federations,” said Solomon, who went on to break barriers for women in the Jewish community, serving as the first woman national campaign chair for United Jewish Communities (a JFNA predecessor), the first woman chair of United Jewish Appeal (a JFNA predecessor) and the first woman chair of the Board of Governors at The Jewish Agency for Israel.

“What may have seemed improbable – that women could be serious philanthropists, and be savvy enough to run a national organization – was all built on that first Lions conference,” she continued. “It was really the stepping stone. They never looked at us quite the same way again.”

A record number of 1,700 Lions is now convening in New York City to kick off the 2012 International Lion of Judah Conference (ILOJC) at the Marriott Marquis. The three-day JFNA conference, which is co-chaired by Betsy Hoos of New Haven and Leslie Sidell of Colorado, coincides with the Lion of Judah’s 40th anniversary and is the first-ever ILOJC in New York City.

“We are truly making history in New York City this week as women leaders and philanthropists come together to learn from each other, inspire each other and energize each other,” said Sidell. “On this 40th anniversary of the Lion, we celebrate all we have accomplished, but also rededicate ourselves to making an impact in the global Jewish community.”

Featured speakers include Cory A. Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J.; Nancy Lublin, CEO of DoSomething.org and founder of Dress for Success; Larry A. Silverstein, president and CEO of Silverstein Properties, Inc., which is developing the World Trade Center site; and Dr. Einat Wilf, a member of Israel’s Knesset and chair of the Independence faction.

Sessions will address critical issues affecting the Jewish community and women’s philanthropy. Organized on a track model, the sessions will focus on five specific themes relevant to Jewish Federations and women philanthropists, including Body, Mind and Spirit; Business, Women and Charity; Family and Generational Philanthropy; Israel and Overseas; and Women’s Leadership.

The conference brings together Lions of Judah worldwide who are involved in the highest echelons of leadership and philanthropy in Jewish communities. The Lions are a diverse group of women philanthropists giving $5,000 or more in their own names to their local Federations. ILOJC is expected to raise more than $20 million for the Jewish Federation Annual Campaign.

“Over the coming days, we’ll hear from international leaders, influencers and great philanthropists,” said Hoos, “but I am most looking forward to standing in solidarity with so many passionate and dedicated Lions of Judah that are, together, changing the world.”

This year’s conference will also feature Norma Kipnis-Wilson, co-founder of the Lion of Judah, as a speaker. Kipnis-Wilson will take part in an awards presentation honoring winners of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Awards – named after Kipnis-Wilson and Lion co-founder Toby Friedland, z"l – which recognize extraordinary women who have set a high standard for philanthropy and volunteerism.

To commemorate the 11th anniversary of 9/11, participants will join a National Day of Service during the ILOJC. In collaboration with the generous host community of UJA-Federation of New York, as well as the Federation-supported Repair the World, attendees will assemble care packages for people in need, creating emergency preparedness kits, literacy kits, food packages, shelter packages and job-skills tutorials.

Gail Norry, chair of NWP, expressed her enthusiasm about the history-making event. “I know it will be incredible to stand in a room with 1,700 women who are among the most caring, committed Jewish leaders in the world,” she said, “and feel the excitement and inspiration, knowing that together we can change the world.”

Visit the ILOJC website to see a full list of speakers and learn more about the event.