Powerful women who lead the community with insight and intelligence took center stage at the Spring Event for UJA-Federation of New York’s Long Island Women’s Philanthropy. As guest speaker Joan Lunden, the notable host of morning television, and three honorees shared their heartfelt vision of caring for people in need, nearly 400 guests at the May 12th event listened with riveted attention.
The luncheon honored Jewish communal leaders, Reva Mandelbaum and Edith Weisfeld, and business leader, Priscilla Smith Gremillion.
“Organizations like yours are so important to the community,” said Lunden. “The values and legacy and how we want to impact other people’s lives is our challenge and also our adventure.”
Lunden also shared some of the key beliefs she has cherished in her life and career, including “Just say yes, if someone asks you to do something, and then you’ll figure out how to do it,” and “surround yourself with people who know more than you do so they can coach you and make you better than you are.”
Throughout the event held at the Woodbury Jewish Center and co-chaired by Marilyn Gessin and Rachel Zuckerbrot, Lunden and the honorees acknowledged the importance of family and friendship over the years.
“I have been truly blessed by my family, and my UJA-Federation journey has been remarkable for the wonderful people I’ve met who have shared my lifelong passion — to make a difference in Israel and in Jewish communities here and all around the world,” said Mandelbaum, who received the Golda Meir Award.
Mandelbaum’s long history with UJA-Federation has included meetings with Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir, and witnessing Soviet Jews arriving in the United States, and she noted that she sees great hope with the next generation. “As I sit at our Long Island Women’s Philanthropy cabinet meetings, I see a group of young women that are hard-working, that care, and are so dedicated. I feel so happy and sure that the future of UJA-Federation is in very good hands.”
For Weisfeld, the Miriam Award recipient, her love of Israel and the Jewish people came from her parents, who were Holocaust survivors. “They showed me the importance of holding on to our heritage and passing it down to my children,” she said.
When Weisfeld attended her first UJA-Federation meeting, she met women who wanted to make the world a better place. “It became clear to me that UJA-Federation is the address of the Jewish people, and I wanted to move right in.”
That commitment to philanthropy also resonated for Gremillion, owner of the Hermès boutique on Long Island, who received UJA-Federation’s Business Leader Award.
“My parents taught me it is always better to give than to receive,” she said. “I had a responsibility to give back to the community that has given me so much in return. It is a true pleasure to be recognized by UJA-Federation.”
The Fourth Week Initiative
Adding to the luncheon’s sense of purpose and vision, Stacy Hoffman, chair of Long Island Women’s Philanthropy, announced a new initiative, The Fourth Week, to help people living near or below the poverty line.
The Fourth Week is named for the last week of the month, often when SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, run out for people who depend on them and local food pantries are picked clean.
The initiative encourages women to supplement food pantries, collect toiletries that SNAP benefits don’t cover, and provide new toys so children can enjoy a special item just for them.
“The Fourth Week helps struggling families,” Hoffman said. “And also allows the many woman out there like you, who want a chance to help.”