Who Is Making the Decisions at JWFNY?

May 31, 2019

by Rachel Siegel


As a foundation, we naturally talk about whom we choose to support. We are proud of our grantee partners and the incredible work they do, so we find ways to highlight them and their accomplishments. Now that the Jewish Women’s Foundation is focused on supporting Jewish women leaders, we can’t wait to continue to update our growing network and the public about these inspirational changemakers!


But who is making the decisions at the foundation? This year, forty visionary layleaders, divided into two groups, called Visionary Circles, each spent approximately 20 hours over the last four months making these decisions. They vetted, interviewed, and selected the final cohort through a collaborative process. They, too, are visionary leaders who are bringing about societal change. Last night, at JWFNY’s Annual Meeting, we put a spotlight on these philanthropists and activists.


Our participants span the generations, and so we deliberately chose a panel that represented our membership. Marilyn Gottlieb, who served as a Visionary Circle Co-Chair this year, was joined by another Co-Chair, Shelly Mitchell, as well as participants Beth Rothenberg and Stephanie Weiss. The four discussed how participation on the Visionary Circle is different, both from other philanthropic experiences and past experiences at JWFNY, due to the fact that every woman is heard and that participants have the opportunity to interact and get to know the applicants. Marilyn, Shelly, Beth, and Stephanie agreed that they learned about women’s leadership, especially how important challenges are in building strong leaders. The panel shared their surprise and delight at the passion of the other participants as well as the respectful collaboration throughout the process. Visionary Circle members felt that they created kinship with other participants around their shared values and left the process seeing their own philanthropy differently. 


JWFNY professionals have spent a lot of time this year planning. Our internal process shifted along with our strategic direction and a lot of thought went into both the process and the outcome. Hearing from our Visionary Circle members last night about the satisfaction they received from participating was affirming for me, as we all took a giant leap together. We trusted the process and learned a lot along the way together. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work alongside these inspirational leaders as we make the world a better place for women and girls.