Counting Women

There are signs that in the current campaign, parties are recognizing feminine clout

The Jerusalem Report
By Judith Cantor–


IT’S LATE December, and hundreds of women and a handful of men are crowded into an auditorium in central Tel Aviv to listen as the heads of most of the main political parties solemnly professed their commitment to equality for women.

When Shaul Mofaz, chairman of the opposition Kadima party, former deputy prime minister and former IDF Chief of Staff, notes that women now head the three major parties, the audience interrupts him. “We want a prime minister, too,” the crowd calls, quite pleased with themselves as they use the feminine form…

And the growth of sophisticated feminist NGOs has also played a role. But, without a doubt, the increased prominence of women and women’s issues in these elections can be attributed to a deliberate, strategic effort by a cohesive group of savvy women, supported by American funds. In an unprecedented effort, 13 Jewish women’s funds in the US joined with three funds in Israel to award a collaborative grant to a new partnership of seven prominent women’s organizations in Israel.

This is not the first time that Israeli feminist organizations have formed alliances. Most recently, feminist groups ran a successful campaign against raising the mandatory retirement age for women (see “Fair and equal,” The Jerusalem Report, September 2011). But these were ad hoc collaborations. This time, the US-based Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund has awarded a two-year, $150,000 grant to Itach-Maaki, the lead organization of the new “Bringing Women to the Fore: A Feminist Partnership,” known in Hebrew as “Shutafot” and intended to be a long-term cooperative effort of eight leading women’s organizations in Israel…

While feminist philanthropy in the US has been developing for decades, it is only over the past 15 years that a Jewish women’s philanthropic movement has been growing. Today, there are some 20 Jewish Women’s Foundations throughout the US, and the movement is expanding as women, many of whom are involved with their local Jewish federations, seek to play a more central and hands-on role in the decisions regarding funding allocations and the issues they address. However, each Jewish Women’s Foundation is separately incorporated.

The Collaborate International Fund, established in early 2012, grew out of the decision by several feminist professionals to increase communication among them, including a monthly conference call. “We began to perceive ourselves as a group, and to think about the effect we could have if we would pool our resources,” says Rebecca Garrison, Associate Director, Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York. Garrison co-leads the collaborative with Jennifer Elvey Schnepper, Assistant Director of Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.

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