by Avra Gordis
The best way to feel connected to philanthropic work is to see the process and meet the people in real time, in their space. I remember when I was a very little girl and was so thrilled to go to my father’s office. I looked carefully at every item on his desk, his phone, the pictures of our family and the paintings on his walls. This was the place he went to every day, where he spent most of his time, where he lived his life away from us. It gave substance to my wonderings about where he was and what he did all day.
Having a picture of the people who work with vulnerable populations in Israel, who apply for and receive grants from the Jewish Women’s Foundation fills me with a personal connection to the project. Conversations in their offices allow me to have a window into the concerns, challenges and joys that they experience. On my most recent trip to Israel, I visited the Netanya Foundation and met with program directors and a client who was so impressive that I walked away feeling proud that I can make a difference in her life and in the lives of many other women and their families who so desperately need our help.
I also think it’s important for the programs we fund to see us and to know that we care about them and are interested in being their partners. I was able to demonstrate our appreciation for the challenges they face every day and help them articulate ways in which we can continue to work together. People want to be heard and valued and paying a visit is the best way to do this, after the funding, of course!
The Ethiopian client told me that when she first began the support group at the Netanya Foundation, she looked down and didn’t speak very much. Now, she told me with pride, she looks in the eyes of people she is talking with and has found her voice in more ways than one. To think that we can be a part of this process for her and so many others like her gives me hope that our efforts matter and we can make positive changes in the lives of women and in ourselves.