A Force for Change: On Diving Right In

By Natasha Mayer


When I imagined my first day in my new position at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, I thought I would fill out some forms in human resources, get a building tour, and set up my email and voicemail preferences. I didn’t picture meeting dozens of new colleagues from around the nation and Israel, hearing leaders of some of the most respected philanthropic organizations speak, or attending a performance by famous stand-up comic Judy Gold, but that’s exactly what I got when I attended the Jewish Women’s Funding Network annual Force for Change Conference.


As the name suggests, change was a pervasive theme throughout the conference, both in terms of the speakers and the activities. During a session on activism strategies, panelists told the stories of their own journeys into activism. One story from Mia Kim Sullivan, Co-Director of Civil Liberties and Public Policy, resonated with me in particular. She spoke of being inspired by her mother’s activism. Sullivan’s mother often received phone calls from Korean women who had looked up the common Korean surname “Kim” in the phonebook, because they didn’t know who else to call when they were experiencing domestic violence. While her mother was not a philanthropic professional, she worked to direct these women to organizations that could serve them. Almost every professional and lay leader with whom I spoke over the three-day conference shared a similar story of being inspired by another woman’s activism.


On the third day, we were asked to consider our own impact: what changes did we want to see our organizations make? The JWFNY mission statement enumerates the goals we work toward overall: “a world in which all women and girls in the Jewish community are ensured a healthy and supportive environment…a world in which we all have equal opportunity for economic, religious, social, and political achievement,” but we were also asked to consider goals on other metrics: how are we impacting our grantee organizations, our members, and the Jewish community? The two dozen or so professionals in attendance came up with a diverse array of answers, but we all had one goal in common. We want not just to accept, but to serve, embrace, and elevate all women in our community, particularly members of marginalized groups, such as women of color, LGBTQIA women, and women with disabilities.


Being thrown into such a wonderful conference on my very first day of work began as an overwhelming experience, but I also had the opportunity to meet a large group of tenacious and bold women, all bringing their diverse viewpoints to the goal of elevating women and girls. And as we all know, women working together are a force to be reckoned with.


For more information on the Jewish Women’s Funding Network, please visit jwfnetwork.org.

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