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Gala to Celebrate Women and Their Philanthropy

March 29, 2007 By:
Leslie Feldman, JF Feature
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More than 350 women attended last year's big event.

On Thursday, April 12, Women's Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia will hold its second-annual "Live It Up!" gala to celebrate Jewish women and recognize the importance of women's support to the Jewish community.

Women's Philanthropy builds ties among Jewish women in the community through education, opportunities for leadership and giving strategies. It reaches out to women to let them know that their opinions and efforts, as well as their gifts, are important to Federation.

"The goals of Women's Philanthropy are to reach out to women in the community, educate them about the wonderful work of the Federation, and to raise dollars to help Jews in need in Philadelphia, Israel and around the world," said Gail Norry, president of Women's Philanthropy. "We have outreach programs over the course of the year with no minimum gift required to attend, but it is necessary to also have fundraising events in order to raise the necessary dollars to help our fellow Jews."

The gala, being held at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue, is Women's Philanthropy's largest event of the year. The five co-chairs -- Lana Dishler, Marjorie Honickman, Sara Laver, JoAnn Wurzak and Robin Zappin -- have been instrumental in developing the evening.

While the co-chairs donate their time to help Federation and the community, they have also found they get something in return.

For Dishler, volunteering her time for the benefit of the Jewish community has been part of her life and that of her husband's for many years.

Active throughout the years with Philadelphia's Soviet Jewry Movement as well as with many committees of Federation, the Dishlers have gained much satisfaction from their philanthropic endeavors and made wonderful friends along the way.

"Aside from time spent with my children and grandchildren, the most meaningful aspect of my life has been my involvement in the community and seeing others give of themselves like we do," said Dishler. "As a women's division, one of our missions is to reach new individuals and bring back those who have lost their connection with us. Wonderful events such as the gala help us achieve this goal."

The Women's Philanthropy Gala keynote speaker is Erin Gruwell, whose success as a teacher inspired the movie "Freedom Writers," starring Hilary Swank. She is also the founder and president of the Erin Gruwell Education Project, a non-profit organization devoted to teaching tolerance, funding college scholarships for underprivileged students and revolutionizing education for at-risk students in America.

Honickman, who has been an active volunteer with Federation for the past 20 years and is a member of its Board of Directors, is enthusiastic about having Gruwell at the event. "Everyone loved the idea of Erin Gruwell right away and we were thrilled to have her accept our invitation," said Honickman.

"She is such an inspiration, and what she speaks about is so applicable to the current situation with the youth and schools in our own community. Listening to her story about the work she does with at-risk high school students will inspire everyone who attends the gala to reach out to others in an effort to create a stronger, close-knit community."

Echoing Honickman's thoughts on Gruwell, Laver said she believes the strong interest in Gruwell and her remarkable movie will draw a large attendance for the event. "We want to bring new people into Federation and see familiar faces as well," Laver stated. "We all have a lot going on in our lives, but it is important to think of others and to live our own lives to the fullest."

Laver, who met her husband through Federation, enjoys the camaraderie with other women and meeting others who share her belief in Judaism and tzedakah. "For us, family and the Jewish community are very important," explained Laver. "Having the opportunity to work with women of all generations, backgrounds, neighborhoods and synagogues makes volunteering with Federation such a unique experience."

Zappin has been involved with Philadelphia's Federation for the past five years; her parents were involved with Federation as well. She serves on the Women's Philanthropy Board and on a cabinet of Federation's National Leadership Program. An active member of her synagogue's sisterhood, Zappin has learned how to juggle her family life and volunteer work.

"It can be difficult sometimes but volunteering and tzedakah are an integral part of my life and something I would like to teach my children," Zappin remarked. "Jewish women are role models for their children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends and neighbors. Choosing to give of my time to Women's Philanthropy conveys an important message of individuality and commitment to the Jewish community."

Zappin added, "When women give individually, it allows their voices and concerns to be heard and addressed. Through our individual gifts, we are each able to support programs we feel strongly about and feel good knowing we have provided comfort and support to those in need."

"After the success of last year's gala, I'm very pleased to be a part of this year's event," said Wurzak.

The Women's Philanthropy Gala begins at 6 p.m. with an elaborate cocktail reception that will be followed by a sit-down dessert and Gruwell's talk. Gala attendees also will have the opportunity to make their pledge to Federation's 2007 annual campaign. The cost to attend is $55 and a minimum annual gift of $360 to Federation's Jewish Community Fund is suggested. The event is being sponsored by Blank Rome, Sussman Automotive, Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue, Lufthansa, Maaco and Pinnacle Premium Promotions.

For more information, call Marni Grinberg at 215-832-0859.

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