Over two decades ago, the founders of JWFNY, were inspired by their desire to support Jewish women and girls. They realized that traditional funding sources in the Jewish community were not being funneled to advance the standing of women and girls in need in the community and they not only sought a remedy, they envisioned the future of women’s philanthropy.
The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York was created in order to increase opportunities for women and girls and challenge institutional barriers to achieving gender equality. Since 1995, JWFNY has awarded over $5 million to nearly 250 projects that address issues related to body image, teen dating violence, bullying, the “stained glass ceiling,” Jewish education, mental and physical health, leadership development, financial literacy, business skill training, and more. Through grantmaking, education, and advocacy, JWFNY has sought to create an environment of equality for women and girls in the areas of economic, religious, social, and political achievement.
By the year 2005, only a decade into their work, they started to see a shift. Large organizations and small foundations had begun earmarking funds to support Jewish women and girls; the need was still great, and JWFNY members saw that what they started had become a movement. They asked themselves: Was enough funding now going to support Jewish women and girls? Could we be making more impact if we added issues related to this population in the secular community to our work?
To that end, in 2012, JWFNY created a giving circle called Isha Koah (Women of Strength) that filled a funding void in the Jewish community by giving special attention to organizations and projects conceived of by Jewish women social entrepreneurs in the developing world. This circle functioned alongside the grantmaking JWFNY continued in New York and in Israel.
Focusing on secular issues that affected Jewish women and girls, JWFNY advocated in NYS for minimum requirements for paid parental leave. JWFNY was the first foundation in the United States to publicly declare that organizations without at least four weeks of paid parental leave need not apply for funding. This was a landmark decision—it meant that many organizations eligible in the past were no longer in the running. However, it also meant that organizations and the boards that govern them started to have conversations about these very topics. JWFNY helped organizations to develop parental leave policies to serve not only the parents, but the children as well.
In 2017, after three rounds of global giving, the giving circle set their sights on visionary Jewish women creating solutions to challenges throughout the United States.
In 2018, JWFNY turned its attention to focus on funding and nourishing Jewish women as social entrepreneurs and leaders – women using both a Jewish and gender lens to address intractable problems in New York, throughout the United States, in Israel, and around the world.