In the spirit of tikkun olam, the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires is dedicated to sharing Jewish values by addressing needs in the community and supporting social action. Each member pledges $500 annually enabling us to fulfill our mission by providing local organizations with funds to address these needs.
Why is This Our Mission?
Berkshire County is one of the poorest counties in Massachusetts. Too many of our neighbors experience food insecurity and cannot pay for adequate fuel in winter. Berkshire residents also lag in health outcomes and length of life compared to those in the rest of the State.
How Do We Fulfill Our Mission?
We give back by
Under the leadership of Jane Glaser, JWF was started in 2009 by a small group of women moved by the needs in the Berkshire community. Collaborating with the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, our founders realized that they could help support some of Federation’s programs and also create new programs beneficial to the Berkshire community at large. As our membership grew, we established a Grants Program to solicit and review grant applications and recommend allocation of funds.
Co-Presidents: Phyllis Cohen and Robin Weiser
Secretary: Elisa Schindler-Frankel
Immediate Past Presidents: Liz Jaffe and Elaine Silberstein
Grants Committee Chair: Lauren Spitz
Membership Committee Chair: Pommy Levy
Cultural Events Committee Chair: Joan Kleinman
Publicity Committee Chair: Susan Abramowitz
Volunteer Committee Co-Chairs: Liz Jaffe and Joan Ury
Board Members: Denyse Adler, Judi Adler, Bobbi Cohn, Marian Faytell, Louise Galpern, Marilyn Katzman, Maddy Krauser, Toby Levine, Gayle Moskowitz, Helice Picheny, and Anne Schnesel
Ex Officio: Shirley Yohalem and Jane Glaser
Now in its eleventh year, JWF, under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, has granted a total of more than $400,000 to community organizations.
In 2020, we granted $39,700 to 14 local organizations. An additional $38,000 of our 2018 and 2019 funds supported camp scholarships; the PJ Library; cultural and social events for community members of all ages; and food, fuel assistance, and a transportation network.
Addressing Basic Needs
Berkshire Baby Box: Provides a safe sleeping space and essential items for newborns as well as connecting parents to local resources and community support. www.berkshirebabybox.org
Berkshire Community Diaper Project: Ensures access to diapers for parents who struggle to afford them. berkshirecommunitydiaperproject.com/
Berkshire Hills Regional School District Project Connection: Provides food filled backpacks on weekends and during vacations to students and their families who qualify for free meal benefits. Visit website.
Berkshire Grown: Helps sustain local farmers and delivers fresh, healthy produce to hungry families and provides farmers with winter income to buy seeds and pay operating costs. In turn, these farmers deliver fresh produce during the harvest season to food pantries, community kitchens and CSAs. berkshiregrown.org
Construct: Provides micro-grants to women living on the margins, allowing them to meet basic needs, like buying gas and a gallon of milk, and pay an internet bill. constructinc.org
Roots Rising: Supports an emergency response to food distribution in the time of COVID through a Virtual Farmers Market and an online sales and delivery platform. Customers go onto the web site to purchase food from a variety of farmers and have it delivered to their door. rootsrising.org
Promoting Self Sufficiency
Berkshire Center for Justice: Provides free legal services to low-income residents in collaboration with other programs in the County. berkshirecenterforjustice.org
Berkshire Immigrant Center: Provides free citizenship examination preparation classes to immigrants. berkshireic.org
Community Health Programs: Addresses the parenting needs of families in the community giving caregivers the tools they need to be effective parents and to treat their children with respect while enacting positive discipline techniques. chpberkshires.org
Literacy Volunteers: Provides training to teachers who teach English as a second language. lvobc.org
Empowering Youth & Young Adults
Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center/Girls Inc. of the Berkshires: Supports the Eureka! program that introduces young women to STEM careers through a supportive environment, STEM summer camp at MCLA and mentoring from caring, understanding adults. brighamcenter.org
Railroad Street Youth Project: Provides group mentoring specifically designed for students of color. It expands horizons of young people by providing them with the sense of community and providing the support they need outside of schools and family. rsyp.org
JWF has over 150 women members who are passionate about giving back to the Berkshire Community. We use the power of our philanthropy to contribute to the betterment of our neighbors. The Berkshires has so many cultural and natural wonders that it is hard to believe it is one of the poorest counties in Massachusetts. But JWF’s reach is limited by available resources, which ARE dependent on the size of its membership.
Your annual $500 contribution supports our grants program and enables us to help non-profit organizations improve the lives of our neighbors. All members are invited to serve on the Grants Committee, which decides how the funds are distributed.
Participate in Our Events
Cultural Events - JWF’s Cultural Arts Committee provides a venue for members to meet others who share similar interests in a wide variety of cultural, educational and social settings. In 2021 JWF sponsored a virtual Winter Wednesday Matinee Art Series. Members all over the Eastern seaboard participated, sharing lively discussions and fellowship.
Annual Brunch at Hancock Shaker Village - August 12, 2021: Join us for our first in-person event of the year. Reunite with friends, meet new members and get to know us and what the Jewish Women’s Foundation does for the community.
Ways to Get Involved
“I’m so inspired by JWF’s grants. The needs are so great, I feel it’s incumbent upon each of us to do whatever we can to help alleviate problems facing so many in our community.
- Member for 10 years
“Joining the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires has added another wonderful dimension to my life in the Berkshires. It has given me an opportunity to give back to this magical community. I feel it is truly a gift to be a member of the Foundation. To be able to be a part of all the important work it does for so many people.”
– Pommy Levy, Membership Chair
“I’m proud to be a charter member of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires as we’ve done so much to help our less fortunate neighbors in both the Jewish and greater communities. Most people think of this area as one of arts and culture without realizing that it is actually one of the poorest in the region. Helping to combat food and housing insecurity, promoting education, empowering women, as well as caring for Jewish youth and seniors represent a small sampling of what we’ve accomplished. Working with other bright and caring women towards tikkun olam is one of the most gratifying experiences ever.”
- Bobbi Cohn, Charter Member
2020 GRANT TESTIMONIALS
Berkshire Baby Box
“We received a very generous donation to help support our efforts with keeping Berkshire Baby Box as an all-county initiative for all new families in Berkshire County. The timing was perfect as we had just received an invoice from the Halo Sleep Sack folks for $3,000. So far, we have been able to keep our inventory strong and we look forward to continuing to do so. This donation helps considerably!!!”
- Hinda and Bill Bodinger, Co-Executive Directors
Berkshire Immigrant Center
“On behalf of Team BIC, I want to say that we are deeply grateful to the Jewish Women’s Federation for the generous $3,500 grant! We unexpectedly had another bump in student enrollment in the citizenship examination preparation class at the end of the summer, so our Education Coordinator’s hours increased yet again. Since August she has been working 18 hours per week to fit in all of BIC’s new civics students instead of the budgeted 16 hours. Nine of these students took their citizenship tests earlier this week! The JWF Grant is BIC’s largest in support of our civics program. Thank you for your continued partnership and this amazing gift.”
- Michelle Lopez, Executive Director
196 South Street Pittsfield, MA 01201