Rising stars

Michelle Mandell, left, and Sherie Siegel, co-chairs of iMPACT, the Young Women's Philanthropy program, received the Women's Philanthropy Rising Star Award during the Oct. 30 Women's Philanthropy luncheon. Photo by Cameron Babcock

After a five-year hiatus, the Jewish Community Association brought back the Women’s Philanthropy Luncheon this year in an effort to rebuild its Women’s Philanthropy division and kick off a new beginning for the division. 

The sold-out luncheon, “Ignition: Spark the Fire Within,” brought 425 women to the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus on Oct. 30 and, according to initial estimates, raised $94,000, approximately $77,000 for the 2013 Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs and $17,000 for the 2014 campaign (some women who had already donated to the 2013 campaign chose to commit to next year’s campaign, too, according to the Association). 

The number of women that attended “was so exciting and reassuring,” said Mary Stone Tessler, the chair of the Women’s Philanthropy, in a release. “We are creating opportunities of engagement on all levels and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.”

The featured speaker, Alina Spaulding, shared her personal story of her family’s departure from the former Soviet Union in 1979 with the help of Jewish agencies such as the Jewish federation system. 

Spaulding’s speech “brought back memories of an experience my husband and I had 20 years ago,” said first-time luncheon attendee Anita Grossman in a release. “We were involved in a federation program in New Jersey that helped immigrant families from Russia get set up in life ... the speech inspired me to get involved again.”

Guests donated more than 500 nonperishable food items to Just 3 Things, a project that benefits the food pantry at  Jewish Family & Children’s Service’s Real World Job Development program, and Interfaith Cooperative Ministries Food & Clothing Bank.

The event, co-chaired by Debbie Bern-stein, Rana Schwartz and Sherie Siegel, also included award presentations. 

Anita Gutkin, community leader and past president of Women’s Philanthropy, received the Women’s Philanthropy Golda Meir Award for her leadership and dedication in the Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs.

Sheila Groman received the “Spirit of Jeannette” Continuing Service Award (named in memory of Women’s Philanthropy leader Jeannette Flom who died in 2008), for her long-term involvement. 

The Women’s Philanthropy “Rising Star” Award – which recognizes women “new” to Women’s Philanthropy who have already demonstrated commitment and leadership –  was presented to Michelle Mandell and Sherie Siegel, the co-chairs of iMPACT, the Young Women’s Philanthropy program. 

The mission of Women’s Philanthropy of the Association is to connect women with shared interests, commitment and beliefs, according to the Association website, jewishphoenix.org, and to provide opportunities for women to come together for education, leadership development and fundraising activities.

In 2009, the Association’s predecessor, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, combined Challenges, its annual women’s event, and Men’s Night Out, its annual men’s event, into a Mega Event, partly in a reaction to the economic downturn and partly to increase outreach. The last Challenges luncheon, held in 2008, raised $425,000 from more than 600 people and the Men’s Night Out event raised $327,000 from more than 400 people, according to a Jan. 9, 2009, Jewish News article. The inaugural Mega Event, held in February 2009 at the Arizona Biltmore, featured Mary Matalin and James Carville and had 1,550 people in attendance. 

The next Mega Event is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2014.

The next event for Women’s Philanthropy is a Hanukkah High Tea on Nov. 24. For more information, call 480-634-4900, ext. 1111, or email impact@jewishphoenix.org.