More than 400 dedicated women philanthropists, giving $7.7 million, found many reasons to feel proud, committed, and motivated at the Lion of Judah Luncheon. The event, held October 30 at The Plaza, was part of UJA-Federation of New York’s Women’s Philanthropy division.
There was the exemplary commitment of honorees Sandra F. Cahn, Natalie W. Barth, and Karen S.W. Friedman. The passionate testimony of Debra, a woman whose life was turned upside down, leaving her and her four children facing poverty and getting crucial help from the Jewish Community Center of the Greater Five Towns, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency. And the powerful message in response to rising anti-Semitism given by guest speaker Deborah E. Lipstadt, a noted scholar and also a Ruby Lion of her federation in Atlanta.
“As worried and concerned as we might be, I say, ‘No, this is not a Holocaust lead-up’,” said Lipstadt, who recently wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, “Why Jews Are Worried.”
She cited the fact that we have a memory of the Holocaust, which makes us alert to looming dangers that went unnoticed by Jewish men and women of the 1930s, and also that we have Israel as a place to go to, for critical ways the present is different from the past.
“And we can’t see Jewish history as moving from woe to woe to woe,” Lipstadt added. “We have to focus on how our history has also been punctuated by so much good and joy. We have to focus on vibrant Jewish life. If we give up what UJA-Federation has done and how we rejoice in who we are, we give up and are lost.”
Lions Bring Light to Jewish Community
The heartfelt commitment to helping the Jewish community and UJA-Federation poured out when the honorees spoke at a pre-reception. Cindy Golub, chair of Women’s Philanthropy, introduced these three extraordinary women, noting that they see the world not only as it is, but also how it might be.
“Our Lion of Judah pin has a torch, it’s a light,” said Sandra E. Cahn, co-founder of the Women’s Executive Circle at UJA-Federation and recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award. “We lead the way to that light, and we need to continue to do that for the good of the Jewish people.”
For Natalie W. Barth, recipient of the Martha Selig Young Leadership Award and current chair of the Manhattan Division, her commitment to serving the Jewish community is twofold.
“I do what I do for my synagogue because I believe in a vibrant local community,” Barth said. “And my work with UJA-Federation gives back to the broader Jewish community.” She also added that she wanted her young sons to learn the important values of caring for klal Yisrael, the entirety of the Jewish people. And Barth paid tribute to Martha Selig, whose career helped lay the groundwork for the network of UJA-Federation beneficiary agencies today.
Karen S.W. Friedman, current chair of the Caring Commission and a volunteer leader at UJA-Federation for nearly two decades, received the Spirit of Peggy Award and celebrated the dedication of the women involved in Women’s Philanthropy. The award is named in honor of Peggy Tishman, a communal leader of great stature and a philanthropist for more than five decades.
“So many of you are women I greatly admire and who care deeply about making the world a better place,” Friedman said. “You inspire me. We all have a role in carrying out the sacred work of UJA-Federation — of caring for people in need and building a global Jewish community.”
That work of caring for those in need received full voice when Debra so poignantly shared her story.
“Without the support of UJA-Federation and the JCC of the Five Greater Towns, I can say I don’t know how I would have made it through. At the JCC, I found so much more than a food pantry. I found a network of caring people who embraced me and my children.”
Robin Kaplan, one of the event chairs along with Cindy Matte and Wendy Sandler, thanked everyone for their remarkable generosity and added, “To each of you who are here today representing the next generation, I especially welcome you and look forward to your participation in the future.”