There is a note on the door of a nurse’s office in Zambia that reads, “If you have come to help…go home. But if you understand that your destiny is entwined with mine, let’s hold hands.” In September 2011 the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York embarked on a new journey with the launch of Isha Koach, a giving circle with a very special name, Women of Strength, and a unique mission: to advance the efforts and profiles of Jewish women social entrepreneurs who lead organizations that improve the quality of life of the world’s most vulnerable women and children. Ten extraordinary women have embraced this challenge – Frances Brandt (co-chair), Kathy Brandt, Joan Davidson, Susan Falk, Leith Greenslade (co-chair), Fern Hurst, Sheri Sandler, Margo Schwartz, Nancy Schwartz Sternoff representing Barbara Dobkin, and Marilyn Thypin. Together we have identified more than twenty Jewish women leading organizations who qualify for our support. In coming months, we will have the opportunity to hear directly from many of these women about how we might help to advance their work and exposure.
We have also had the benefit of listening to some of the leading experts on the status of women in the world today who have shared with us both the challenges and the opportunities of investing in women globally. We have learned that women are still 70% of the world’s poor, earn just 10% of world income and own just 1% of world property despite working more than men. Most refugees and victims of sexual violence are women and a shocking 1 in 3 girls under the age of 18 experience sexual violence in several developing countries. We know that just 14 Heads of State are women and that only 13 of the 500 leading CEOs are women. But we have also learned that girls outperform boys when they are given equal access to education, that educating girls is one of the best ways to improve child health, maternal health and reduce poverty and that there is growing recognition that the advancement of women is the key to future economic and human development.
We are excited that Isha Koach will make a contribution to this global movement to advance women and do so in a way that shines a light on Jewish women leaders. Isha Koach would not have been possible without the commitment of founding JWFNY members Frances Brandt and Fern Hurst, the support of President Madeleine Grant and the passion and dedication of our Executive Director, Joy Sisisky. We hope that as Isha Koach joins hands with Jewish women leaders who are working to improve the lives of the most vulnerable women that our destinies will be forever entwined in ways that deepen our commitment to each other and establish Jewish Women’s Foundations as a force in the global women’s movement.
—Leith Greenslade, Co-Chair, Isha Koach