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The Lilith Blog 1 of 3

September 6, 2019 by

Supporting Social Entrepreneurs

By Jamie Allen Black, CEO, Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York

When Tamar Menasseh grew frustrated with the gun violence ripping apart her neighborhood on Chicago’s Southside, she did not pack up and move. Instead, she pitched a lawn chair, set up a bar-b-que, and invited neighbors to join her for a meal. After her model of community gatherings helped to lower tensions it evolved into Mothers Against Senseless Killings, which has outposts in several states, including on Staten Island, N.Y.

The sexual assaults Evie Litwok witnessed as an inmate in two federal prisons gave her purpose upon her release. Today, Litwok runs Witness to Mass Incarceration, an organization that was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate sexual violence against incarcerated LBQT+ women and provides people just released from prison with suitcases filled with basic supplies to help them get started on the outside.

While we can only speculate about whether the world would be a better place if women were in charge, what is clear is that many women are adept at turning their personal experiences into unique professional ventures. Based on our 20-plus years of experience funding women-led organizations, The Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York knows that not only could women solve some of the most intractable problems around the globe, but that more attention – and funds – must be designated to make these efforts successful.

On September 17, 2019, JWFNY will for the first time host The Convening, a day-long event that will bring businesswomen and philanthropists together to discuss the field of women social entrepreneurship. The goal is to shed light on the ideas and skills women have to identify and address human rights needs around the world. Hopefully, the money will follow.67470538_2889000467807710_4052360630856843264_o

Menasseh and Litwok will be joined by over a dozen agents of change, including Elizabeth Elting, who sold her global business-solutions company, TransPerfect to focus on raising up women leaders; Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman who has written extensively about global social entrepreneurship; and Mazal Shaul, the Executive Director of WePower, a non-partisan Israeli NGO that promotes and trains women for public office in Israel. 

At JWFNY, we are fortunate to witness firsthand social entrepreneurs’ brilliant skills and accomplishments. For example, after delivering babies in an African refugee camp, midwife Rachel Zaslow decided to bring a new model of care to remote Atiak, Uganda. Today, her organization, Mother Health International, is significantly altering outcomes. While the Ugandan infant mortality rate is 64 per 1,000 births, in Atiak the rate is now 11 per 1,000 births. That’s even lower than for blacks in the United States, who suffer an infant mortality rate of 18 per 1,000 births.

Yet despite stellar outcomes, we know that women still have a tough time raising money for initiatives focused on improving the lives of women and girls. According to a 2018 report by Human Rights Funders Network, only 23% of the $9.4 billion in human rights foundation funding from 2011-2015 targeted women and girls – more than 50% of the population.

Jamie Allen Black, JWFNY CEO

Jamie Allen Black, JWFNY CEO

That’s why we at the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York decided to focus our attention and support on women who use their Jewish values and a gender lens to create change in the world – whether in the Jewish community or beyond, in the United States or globally. They are part of a movement – a concerted effort to raise up the leaders this world, our country, and our communities need right now – and our goal is to make sure that they have the support to achieve their bold visions.

Participants will come away from The Convening deeply moved by the stories of women who saw a need that wasn’t being addressed and are now working to solve problems and shift dynamics. With a groundswell of support, we believe these women really could deliver a better world for all. 

Jamie Allen Black is CEO of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York.