JWFA’S Brunch Showcases Success

JWFA’S Brunch Showcases Success

Food, feminism, and philanthropy were the topics for the June 8 event.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

JWFA power team (from left) Judy Marx, Rachel Wasserman, Dina Fuchs Beresin.
JWFA power team (from left) Judy Marx, Rachel Wasserman, Dina Fuchs Beresin.

Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta hosted its first annual Year End Showcase brunch on June 8 announcing its 2023 grant docket, including the Women’s Leadership Grant recipients. Also on the agenda was a panel discussion, “Food, Feminism & Philanthropy,” with caterer Sandra Bank; Jenny Levison, of Souper Jenny; and Dale Gordon DeSena, founder and president of Taste of Atlanta, who served as the moderator.

The brunch was held at a unique venue on Huff Road, 42 West, which had an industrial ambiance as a backdrop to A Kosher Touch’s sumptuous food and floral displays. Bank (AKT) was lauded for donating the staff and food for the event.

Lisa Freedman gets the “chair” torch passed from Linda Davis.

JWFA CEO Rachel Wasserman quantified the organization’s success, saying, “It’s been quite a year! We just concluded our biggest year of grantmaking – not how many we made or how much we allocated, although those are impressive numbers, but rather, I am so proud of taking a step back to think outside the box as funders and develop multiple, creative ways to support social change for Jewish women and girls. From sustaining grants to women’s leadership grants to our incredible signature grant, the ways we are impacting the landscape for women and girls in our community are too numerous to count…we are the ones who must stand up…for gender equality in the Jewish community. We must demand what we know we deserve: safety, equity, respect, leadership opportunities, mental health…a better world for our daughters and granddaughters.”

She thanked her coworkers like Judy Marx, advancement and engagement manager, Dina Fuchs Beresin, director of strategic programs, and outgoing chair Linda Davis.

Randi Zelcer and Mindy Binderman are both JWFA Trustees.

Moderating the panel, DeSena spoke of “pulling back the curtain” with comments about their start as entrepreneurs, how they navigated COVID, and views of giving back, or tzedakah.

Levison recalled when she started 25 years ago, she just “did it…keeping her acting career in tow for the evenings.” She traveled the world and got soup recipes on napkins. She laughed as she said, “Starting a soup business in (hot) Atlanta was questionable.” Now, with her Zaydie Project, she has served 130,000 quarts of soup this year.

Dale DeSena (left) moderated the food panel, along with lively input from Jenny Levison and Sandra Bank.

Bank stated that growing up in South Africa gave her a love of entertaining, and that being an immigrant, her business created a sense of “family,” as well as serving the actual families in whose houses she caters. She said, “I look at tzedakah as being done without recognition…one way in doing that is staff development.”

DeSena remarked how the industry has changed, “Recessions and storms didn’t compare to COVID…we became hyperlocal.” Bank echoed, “During COVID, we kept the wheels turning, but did not make money.”

All agreed that they enjoyed the leisure time from COVID but only for the first few weeks. Bank said, “I looked around…maybe we need to paint the walls.”

Levison said she watched Netflix until reality set in.

A Kosher Touch (Sandra Bank) is known for beautiful table displays.

DeSena concluded, “We are the leaders of the band in a fun industry with fun people.”

Beresin spoke of the original thought that the Agents of Change Training program would exist for “younger” women. She recalibrated, “I myself was looking at 50…so now we are 24-plus with no age cap, all learning what it means to be philanthropists, with a 30-year age span.”

Due to COVID, the ACT program was predominately done virtually. She said, “We identified many mental health issues locally…stressors which resulted in some deep soul searching.”

ACT graduate Cobi Cohen spoke of her personal experience as she was inspired to be more intentional and introspective.

Grant chair Mindy Binderman announced $323,000 granted total this year (a 24 percent increase) with a running total of more than $2 million. This is the first time JWFA has four categories of grants, adding that some of the grants are being given time and funds to “ramp down” to make way for new ideas with new partners, including policy reform, sexual violence, tools for Ukrainians and Russians, STEM education, free and safe abortion treatment and contraception, and expanded rabbinic networks.

Incoming chair Lisa Freedman relished the success of the previous 10th anniversary event with Rochelle Walensky (CDC director), trustee events, and retreats. Of Davis’ departure, she said, “This leaves me with crazy large shoes to fill.” Davis was called up to receive a special tzedakah box representing righteousness and justice. Davis emotionally addressed the founders, “I hope what we are today is what you envisioned.”

Wasserman was then commended for her 11 years of service.

In the pre-function, passionate JWFA members chatted about their roles. Freedman said, “I care so deeply about our mission especially as a Jewish woman raising a daughter. Less than 2 percent of funds raised today (universally) are directed solely for women. That makes us very unique in our efforts.”

Binderman stated, “This is the smartest and most welcoming organization and group of women!”

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