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Miami Women See Federation-Funded Nonprofits at Work in Israel

Nadine Foldes, Marsha Soffer and Sara Adler engage in a discussion with representatives from the Federation-funded Tahel - Crisis Center for Religious Women, which operates a 24-hour hotline, directly aids victims of sexual assault and child abuse, and runs educational programs on domestic violence.

Representatives from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Women’s Amutot Initiative Committee recently returned from a unique, seven-day Israel Study Trip that enabled them to see firsthand how Federation dollars are helping to improve the lives of women and children in Israel.

The Women’s Amutot Initiative, a subcommittee of Federation’s Israel and Overseas Committee, had just completed its intensive annual allocations process, granting a total of $291,000 to 26 nonprofit organizations in Israel. (Amutot refers to nongovernmental organizations in Israel.) Click here to see the allocations list. Then in February, a group of 10 women visited Israeli organizations that have benefited from the Initiative’s allocations in the past or are receiving Federation grants for the first time.

One example of what they saw: Participants met with Alona, an attorney at the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ), a public interest law organization that has proven effective in addressing injustices carried out in the name of religion. Since 2004, CJW has come up with creative solutions for protecting women by setting legal precedents in the secular court system, thereby effecting lasting social change. In the case where a husband may have the religious right not to give his wife a Get (religious divorce document), CWJ has used tort law to convince the court system that the case is civil and not religious in nature, and freeing the wife from an unwanted marriage. CWJ is also currently advocating the use of prenuptial agreements that will enable women to receive a Get if the marriage does not work out.

Trip participants learned about Olim Beyachad, which helps Ethiopian Israeli college graduates find jobs that suit their academic education – often a challenge to these female immigrants. Pictured with program graduates and mentors are (standing) Vanessa Bartram, Nadine Foldes, Lourdes Suarez, Leigh Siegel, Federation’s Israel Office Director Rena Genn (seated) Tracey Spiegelman and Ellen Kessler.

“Meeting with CWJ and the other organizations was eye-opening for so many of our trip participants,” said Marsha Soffer, Chair of the Women’s Amutot Initiative for the past three years. “It was inspiring to visit the organizations we are funding, meet with their staff and the women whose lives have been changed for the better, and hear about relevant issues in Israeli society – whether it was about certain laws, the process of changing laws, women in politics, or the upcoming elections. We all know that what we do is important; going on the trip affirmed this even more.”

The Women’s Amutot Initiative’s allocations process is conducted by a group of passionate women who represent Miami’s diverse Jewish community. Over several months, the committee reviews funding requests from various organizations, learns about issues affecting Israeli women, researching the organizations and issues, and has important discussions. Ultimately, the committee selected 26 organizations to receive Federation grants.

For more information about the Women’s Amutot Initiative, contact Dahlia Bendavid at dbendavid@gmjf.org or 786.866.8445.

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