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Federation's Women's Amutot Joins International Alliance to Support Needs of Israeli Women

Achoti (Sister) – for Women in Israel is a Federation-funded amutah (nonprofit organization) that, among other efforts, helps empower marginalized Israeli women by teaching them to turn their skills into profitable trades.

The Women’s Amutot Initiative of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation has joined 13 other American Jewish women’s foundations and three Israeli counterparts to form the Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund (JWCIF). The purpose of this fund is to pool resources and raise awareness about important concerns – such as gender disenfranchisement and discrimination – affecting women and girls in Israel’s Jewish and broader communities, and ultimately effect social change in Israel. Amutot is Hebrew for “nonprofit organizations.”

As one of its first collaborative acts, JWCIF has awarded a two-year, $150,000 grant to Itach-Maaki, lead organization of Bringing Women to the Fore: A Feminist Partnership. The partnership is a cooperative effort of eight key women’s organizations in Israel that are uniting to develop a strong activist coalition.

When a young Orthodox schoolgirl in the Israeli city of Bet Shemesh was harassed and intimidated by a group of extremists in January, the incident served as a catalyst for media coverage of these issues, spotlighting the involuntary segregation of men and women in some public places. Such incidents took place although major rabbinic leaders condemned this practice and the Israeli Supreme Court outlawed it. Another concern brought to the forefront was the plight of Jewish women whose husbands refuse to give them a get – a Jewish divorce. These and other issues are being addressed by the JWCIF.

Marsha Soffer, Chair of the Women’s Amutot Initiative of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, said members of her committee are pleased to be part of this important, international effort to improve Jewish women’s lives in Israel.

“The project is a direct reflection of our organization’s core values and demonstrates the power of women’s collective voices,” Soffer said.

In Miami, addressing the needs of Israeli women and girls has been a concern since 2002. In that year, as Israelis were suffering a large number of terror attacks, Miami’s Jewish community raised millions of dollars in assistance through a special Israel Emergency Fund. Recognizing that some already vulnerable Israeli women and children were experiencing particular hardship, a group of women at Federation worked to ensure that a portion of the IEF went specifically to help this population. Thus, the Women’s Amutot Initiative was born.

Launched with a focus on economic empowerment and to help domestic abuse victims, the Women’s Amutot Initiative has expanded to include social empowerment, protection against and prevention of violence, and leadership development. A panel of 25 Miami women reviews proposals from nonprofits whose programs meet the Initiative’s criteria before making funding decisions. The long-term objective of the Initiative is to create social change that has a real and lasting impact on individuals and their families, as well as Israeli society as a whole.

As an example of this work: Through Miami’s Women’s Amutot Initiative, change has been effected in the way Israeli institutions have assisted victims of rape or domestic abuse who live in Israel’s Negev region. Previously, distressed women had to travel hours from home for examination following a report of abuse; through Federation-funded lobbying by one of the amutot, medical and psychological services are now available much closer to home.

Now in its 10th year of operation, Miami’s Women’s Amutot Initiative is an integral part of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Israel & Overseas Department, funding 21 women’s programs. And while many other Jewish communities support services benefiting women and children, Miami is the only one whose Women’s Amutot Initiative receives a yearly allocation from the Annual Federation/UJA Campaign and focuses exclusively on Israel.

Joining the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Women’s Amutot Initiative in this collaborative effort are Boston Jewish Community Women’s Fund, Jewish Women’s Foundation of Broward County, Jewish Women’s Foundation of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit, Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York, Jewish Women’s Foundation of South Palm Beach County, and Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Greater Palm Beaches.

Other participating groups include Israel Lions of Judah, National Council of Jewish Women Israel Granting Program, The Dafna Fund, The Hadassah Foundation, The Nedivot and Neshamot Funds of UJA-Federation/Westchester Women’s Venture Fund, Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation of Greater Washington, and Women of Vision – The Jewish Women’s Foundation of Greater Philadelphia.

Recipient organizations in Israel include Itach-Maaki: Women Lawyers for Social Justice, Adva Center, The Israel Women’s Network (IWN), Economic Empowerment for Women (EEW), Achoti (Sister) for Women in Israel, Mahut Center, Supportive Community – Women’s Business Development Center, and Women’s Spirit – Financial Independence for Women Victims of Violence.

For more information about the Women’s Amutot Initiative of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, contact Dahlia Bendavid, Israel and Overseas Department Director, at IsraelOverseas@JewishMiami.org or 786.866.8445.

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