MILWAUKEE – When a group of local Jewish women gathered this summer to figure out how to best spend $25,000 for the benefit of women and children, it was both heartbreaking and rewarding.
“The needs of these charitable organizations in our community is so great. There’s not as much government funding,” said Julie Gorens-Winston of Milwaukee, co-chair of the grants committee for the Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund. “It opens your eyes to the good things that are happening in our community and the needs of our community.”
Some of the local Jewish women who have joined the Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund have pored over funding requests and have even made site visits to see how the money is spent. Women join the fund with a donation of at least $500 and then choose their own level of involvement.
Women say it felt rewarding doing the work of choosing recipients this summer. Grants committee co-chair Jill Plavnick of Mequon was among those reviewing this year’s 41 funding requests, attending meetings where questions were raised like, “Would it help enough people?” and “Is this fulfilling our mission?”
“There were a lot of organizations requesting funding for literacy in the inner city,” Plavnick said. “A couple were helping women learn how to read. There were literacy and GED programs.”
She was saddened that “in our own city, all these people who don’t know how to read – how can they get jobs?”
“I think that was one of the biggest things, seeing how illiterate our city is.”
The Fund gives to both Jewish and non-Jewish causes, with members taking pride in the fact that Jews are helping the greater local community.
“They love building bridges to the greater Milwaukee community because it’s a way to communicate that Jews care about our community,” said Amy Blumenthal, director of Women’s Philanthropy of Milwaukee Jewish Federation, which administers the program. “They love learning about the different agencies that help our community.”
The Fund, with more than 250 lifetime members, has awarded grants of more than $260,000 since its inception in 1993, benefitting about 60 local agencies, she said.
Women on the grants committee voted to determine this year’s grant recipients through a completely democratic process, they said. This year’s recipients are:
- The Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center for the Road to Rainbow program at the Albert & Ann Deshur JCC Rainbow Day Camp in Fredonia.
- Jewish Family Services Housing for Bradley Crossing programming for at-risk youth.
- Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee for “Inmate to Chef: Culinary Careers for Women in Prison.”
- The Adult Learning Center’s GED program.
- The Alzheimer’s Association southeastern Wisconsin chapter’s Operation Stronger Together, an initiative connecting family caregivers with resources.
- The Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers for their Parent Resources & Child Enrichment Program.
Plavnick recalled visiting one of the recipients, the Road to the Rainbow program, where she watched inner city children form a human chain and heard stories of kids who’d never left the city before, seeing growing vegetables and even a worm for the first time.
“I think it’s a great fund,” Plavnick said. “It’s Jewish women helping.”
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How to join
- Join the Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund for a one-time donation of $1,000, or $500 for women 35 and under.
- The $1,000 donation can be payable over two years.
- Contact Amy Blumenthal at 414-390-5713 or AmyB@MilwaukeeJewish.org.