Women of Vision — the Jewish Women's Foundation of Greater Philadelphia, Federation's women's foundation — has awarded a total of $55,000 to two programs that help unemployed or underemployed poor, immigrant women become self-sufficient and economically secure. By directing their 2009-10 grants to programs that provide the practical means for women to break out of the cycle of poverty, Women of Vision's funding exemplifies Moses Maimonides' highest level of tzedakah, which is to help those in need become economically self-sufficient. Maimonides, the 12th-century Jewish philosopher and scholar, laid the groundwork for the Jewish approach to philanthropy.
The Philadelphia-based New World Association of Emigrants from Eastern Europe was granted $44,000 for its program Pathways to Success, which provides job-training and job-placement services for female émigrés. The Hadera Development Fund of Israel was awarded $11,000 for Women's Empowerment: Escaping Poverty Through Micro-Enterprise — a program that gives micro-business loans to immigrant women living in Hadera, a city on the Mediterranean coast near Haifa. The one-year grants begin September 2009, in conjunction with the beginning of the Jewish New Year 5770.
According to Women of Vision chair Renée Sackey, both grant requests were aligned with the foundation's mission of inspiring philanthropy to benefit the lives of Jewish women and girls.
Sackey, an attorney who serves as founding director of Team Capital Bank, says "both programs empower women to improve their own lives through economic security; when women's lives improve, their family's life improves, and ultimately, the community is strengthened."
According to Suzanne Feld, chair of the Grants Committee, this year's grants were chosen because their "positive impact on economic independence can be clearly measured."
Feld, who owns an executive search company, adds that this year's grant theme of economic security was motivated by the "down economy and Women of Vision's interest in developing independence through small-business ownership."
The Women of Vision grant to the Pathways to Success Program will help provide 80 hours of English-as-a-Second Language training for 35 women who have recently emigrated from Eastern Europe to the Philadelphia area. Participants may elect training for careers as Certified Nurse Assistants or in the computer field. The New World Association, the agency that runs the program, will provide training and test preparation in their New World Business School. Job-search assistance is available to all participants.
In Israel, the foundation grant will help the Women's Empowerment: Escaping Poverty program offer 30 immigrant women from disadvantaged backgrounds a six-month course emphasizing skills needed to develop and run their own small enterprises in fields such as cosmetology and tailoring. The program also provides micro-loans to help launch these businesses as well as emotional support and guidance to empower the women in their new ventures.
"It's exciting to make our largest grant ever," says Sackey.
Feld agrees, adding: "We're thrilled that Women of Vision is a force for social justice and positive social change."
For more information, call Susan Lundy at 215-832-0849.