Lion of Judah Event Shows Power of Women

“We need each other to accomplish our joint mission and vision,” Karen Friedman, chair of UJA-Federation of New York’s Women’s Philanthropy, told an audience of nearly 300 women attending the Lion of Judah fall luncheon held at The Pierre on November 2nd.

From left, award recipient Joan Wachtler, guest speaker David Makovsky, and honoree Sheila L. Birnbaum at the Women’s Philanthropy Lion of Judah event From left, award recipient Joan Wachtler, guest speaker David Makovsky, and honoree Sheila L. Birnbaum at the Women’s Philanthropy Lion of Judah event. Photo: Michael Priest

The event was a powerful testament to the strength of women in the community, with the collective gift of the attendees representing over $5.1 million raised for UJA-Federation.

“It’s not just the money that creates our power,” said Marcia Riklis, general chair of the 2012 Annual Campaign. “It is our willingness to get involved, to work together to transform the world, and to accept the power of collective responsibility.”

Karen Spar Kasner, co-chair of the event with Gabrielle Propp and Elizabeth Shaoul Wilens, introduced honoree Sheila L. Birnbaum.

Tap Into Retiring Women

Birnbaum, partner at Skadden Arps and special master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, urged the guests to tap into the valuable resource of pioneering women who entered the workforce and are now beginning to retire.

“There’s a generation of women who opened the doors of work and created opportunities for other women and are now retiring,” she said. “We have to use their talent in new kinds of charitable giving and endeavors to do what we have to do for the poor and the hungry.”

Birnbaum noted that as special master she has a challenging job to help the people who suffered from illnesses related to 9/11, but that she is also able to offer hope that they will receive the medical treatment they need.

A moving account of how the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services (JBFCS), a beneficiary agency of UJA-Federation, made a difference to family members who lost a loved one on 9/11 was given by Joan Klitzman. Klitzman lost a daughter on 9/11 and helped create a support group at the JBFCS New York Jewish Healing Center.

Joan Wachtler, who is a board member and active lay leader of UJA-Federation, received the Phyllis V. Tishman Memorial Award for her years of dedicated service. In accepting the award, she cited words she had learned from her grandmother, “It is not an obligation to serve our community, it is truly a privilege.”

The event also included remarks from guest speaker, David Makovsky, who is the director of The Washington Institute’s Project on the Middle East Peace Process.

Makovsky spoke about why peace between Israelis and Palestinians is so critical now at a time when the Middle East is “at it’s most tumultuous since World War I.”

He identified “ticking clocks” creating a sense of urgency including the current campaign to delegitimize Israel, the increasing ability of rockets to reach deeper into Israel, Turkey’s maneuvering in the region, and the general radicalization of leadership in the Middle East.

But Makovsky said there is both opportunity and risk. The Jewish people can’t give up, he added, and he drew inspiration from the generosity and deep commitment represented by the Lion of Judah women.