Ruby Lions learn what is taking place throughout the Jewish world
The roar of the Ruby Lions could be heard throughout Virginia Beach as United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s women donors giving $10,000 or greater to the Community Campaign gathered to hear from the newly placed CEO of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) at the home of Martha Glasser.
JDC’s first woman CEO, Ariel Zwang, brought greetings from JDC’s professionals around the world, as well as from the beneficiaries that Tidewater’s Campaign dollars help and assist in communities near and far. She spoke about her own personal and professional journey which brought her to her new role—after a lifetime spent leading professional non-profit social service organizations.
Zwang took the Ruby Lions on a journey around the Jewish globe to discuss the kinds of challenges that are presenting themselves and which are being exacerbated by rising antisemitism in seemingly every corner of the world. She also spoke about the emerging challenges posed by the sunsetting of Claims Conference funding, and JDC’s efforts to illustrate the need for continued funding in places that were ravaged by the Nazis and later by Communism.
While it’s clear that the challenge of taking care of Jews in need (and of Jewish communities at risk) are great, hearing Zwang talk about the work that she and her colleagues are doing on behalf of the Tidewater community and other Federations who support the JDC, gave the ladies in the room great confidence in the ability to meet the challenges. As Zwang continues to learn and employ her creative problem-solving skills, the JDC will surely continue to improve Jewish life around the world, and it was gratifying for the Ruby Lions who heard her that day, that this Federation continues to play a role in making that happen.
And while on the topic of strong, women leaders…
A small group of women’s division leaders met with special guest Ellie Cohanim. A Senior Fellow with the Center for Security Policy, Cohanim also hosts a weekly newsmagazine show, Global Perspectives with Ellie Cohanim for the Jewish News Service (JNS) and serves as a Senior Fellow at Independent Women’s Forum focusing on U.S. foreign policy. Cohanim previously served as U.S. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the U.S. Department of State, by appointment of the President of the United States and the U.S. Secretary of State.
Cohanim was the State Department’s first Iranian-born Envoy, and she led diplomatic initiatives which resulted in forging groundbreaking partnerships in the Arab world to combat antisemitism, anti-Zionism, and Islamophobia. She also persuaded the first-ever Muslim faith group to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, all as part of the Abraham Accords efforts. Cohanim talked about her early childhood—coming to the United States as a refugee in the immediate aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, assisted by HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society). The family had to completely re-build their lives, and it left an indelible impression. Years later, that experience would lead Cohanim to accept a position with the U.S. government which enabled her to fight the kind of antisemitism from which her family had fled when she was a child.
Cohanim also spoke of her immediate past role as Deputy Envoy and her myriad experiences working with foreign counterparts in an effort to improve the treatment of Jews living in less democratic societies, often at-risk or afraid. Her insider’s view of the Abraham Accords was fascinating to learn about, as were the political dynamics that marked the atmosphere of the multilateral discussions. Her message to the women? “Stay educated and stay connected with elected officials. They listen to their constituencies. They want to hear from the people who ultimately determine their electability.”
And moving from electability to “delectability…”
UJFT’s Women’s Division has been trying to hold women’s Sukkot event for the past three years. Year one was planned as a Progressive Sukkah “Hop” through Ghent, with each of the Ghent congregations hosting one course of a four-course meal. Ghastly weather kept the event from taking place. It was replaced a few months later by an indoor event featuring author Amy Blumenthal and her book The Cast, which was all about friendship. The women who attended the event also celebrated friendships—both life-long and more recent—and enjoyed a beautiful dinner together.
Last year, the event (along with nearly every other fall event in the community) was canceled due to COVID-19. This year, determined to hold a Sukkah event, the Women’s Division invited area women to a special Charcuterie-making class to be held in the Sukkah of the Sandler Family Campus. It was so close to happening, when… Boom! Rain! Again! Undaunted, the Women’s Division brought the event indoors (with a smaller group to ensure social distancing and safety) and held the event anyway.
Local chef and culinary instructor, Deanna Freridge, led the class. Each participant received a slate charcuterie board on which to create her masterpiece using kosher cheeses, pickled vegetables (cucumbers, olives, roasted red peppers), mustards, fresh and dried fruits (apples, grapes, dates, and apricots), condiments (mustard, fig jam), cracker crisps, pecans, and dark chocolate. Freridge’s instructions on how to slice the cheese and how to mix the various flavors and textures to bring out a new way of tasting, really struck a chord with the participants.
She provided each participant with a printed packet of food history, recipes, websites, and suggested wine pairings. The evening, marked by “ooohs” and “aaaahs” of appreciation from the fellow Charcuterists, also featured a dash of camaraderie and a sprinkling of giggles. But more importantly, it brought together women from across the Jewish community, representing nearly all of the congregations, age groups, and various levels of Federation involvement.
A special shoutout to Chef Deanna Freridge for volunteering her time to make everyone who attended better food artists and friends!
The Women’s Division of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater is responsible for community-building and fundraising for the Federation’s annual Community Campaign. Anyone interested in supporting the Annual Campaign (and thereby ensuring future programs like this one) can contact Amy Zelenka, UJFT chief development officer, at the Federation at 757-965-6139.