Lori Schwartz, 2023 Woman of the Year, personifies essence of Women’s Philanthropy
Lori Schwartz kept getting invited to Women’s VOICES, the flagship event powered by Jewish Federation of Orange County (JFedOC) Women’s Philanthropy. When she decided to go in 2005, she liked what she saw—hundreds of dynamic women who fundraise and volunteer for the Orange County Jewish community and Israel. She knew some from her congregation and some from UCLA. They all wanted to build the community and focus on shared values of tikkun olam (repairing the world), tzedakah (social justice), rachamim (compassion) and chesed (loving kindness).
Lori got involved right away, and the rest is history. At this year’s Women’s VOICES luncheon, to be held on Sunday, March 19, at 10:30 AM, at the Renaissance Newport Beach Hotel, Lori will be honored as Woman of the Year.
Born and raised in San Rafael, California, Lori received a B.A. in political science from UCLA, and a Juris Doctor degree from Golden Gate School of Law. Lori moved to Orange County to join her husband Bert White in 1979. During her business career, Lori worked in commercial law, and as a contract negotiator with McDonnell Douglas, before retiring to raise her family. The family belongs to Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot, where Lori has been active in Torah study and sisterhood.
Lori joined Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy Council in 2005 and soon thereafter co-founded its Reading Partners volunteer program, with then-president of Women’s Philanthropy Ellen Weiss. In 2011, Lori was elected Vice President of Reading Partners and received the OneOC Spirit of Volunteerism Award for this program. An avid knitter, Lori also co-founded, in 2009, the Women’s Philanthropy Mitzvah Mavens Knitting Circle. As an instructor of the group and a knitter, she has created everything from blankets for pediatric cancer patients at CHOC Children’s Hospital to warm winter hats for Israeli soldiers.
“It’s not the act of knitting, it’s the community it creates,” she said.
Lori served for two years as Women’s Philanthropy Council Executive Vice President. In 2014 she became President of the Council, serving through 2016.
In 2015, Lori began an eight-year term on the JFedOC Board of Directors. She was elected Board Co-Chair in 2017, served as Board Chair in 2018-2019, is a current member and Past Chair of the Federation’s Grants and Allocations Committee, and has served on the Strategic Planning Committee. She has especially enjoyed the Grants and Allocations Committee, “because the community depends on us for its basic needs, and it’s good to know that people are taken care of in times of need.”
At the national level, Lori is a recipient of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award of Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), bestowed annually on extraordinary women who have set a high standard for philanthropy and volunteerism. The honor was presented at the 2016 International Lion of Judah Conference. In 2022, Lori was elected to the JFNA National Women’s Philanthropy Board. Lori is a longtime Ruby Lion of Judah, and a Federation Legacy Circle member, having created a Lion of Judah Endowment to fund her gift in perpetuity.
COVID has posed challenges to the community, but Lori believes that things are beginning to bounce back. “We had to pivot, keeping things alive on Zoom and otherwise,” she said.
“Women’s Philanthropy is a community of women who provide phenomenal support and philanthropy,” Lori said. “Past leaders remain committed, and we continue to grow in terms of new leaders. These bright leaders, mentors and future leaders are a strong voice for female doers and givers in Orange County. As part of a vibrant and vital community of women, we grow together, learn from each other, appreciate our diversity and treasure our shared values.”
She concluded, “The most rewarding thing is the power of the collective—knowing that together we can be as effective as possible in a time of transition. As a collective, we can do so much more.”
Meet the Co-Chairs
Co-Chairs for the Women’s VOICES luncheon represent the three giving societies of Women’s Philanthropy: Lion of Judah, Pomegranate and Pearl Lion of Judah are part of a 50-plus year tradition of creating an impact with a gift of $5,000 or more annually and wear the gold Lion pin. Pomegranates wear the Pomegranate pin, the symbol of sustenance, and engage in programming with like-minded women with an annual commitment of $1,800 or more. With an annual gift of $365 or more, Pearl Society members participate in engaging programming while demonstrating values by wearing the Pearl Society hamsa necklace.
Together these co-chairs , they have put their passion and energy into this flagship event, creating what promises to be a memorable afternoon of socializing and celebrating for philanthropic Orange County Jewish women. They have gone through interesting leadership journeys of their own.
Born in Wisconsin and raised with a modest upbringing, Barby Schwid feels good to be able to give back. As a new mother, she became active in Women’s American ORT. After moving to Bellevue, Washington, she co-chaired the local ORT chapter and served on a sisterhood board and on the executive board of National Council of Jewish Women. When Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle offered a trip to Israel, she and her husband jumped at the opportunity. Touring programs and facilities funded with Federation grants in Israel, she “understood the impact our dollars were making both locally and abroad.”
Barby was delighted when Orange County became the family’s home in 2014, because she sensed that people were eager to connect. She has found many ways to be involved in the community.
She explained, “Jewish Federation would once again be the community where I would find those generous, compassionate and dynamic women leaders and friends. I am especially glad that we help Holocaust survivors. I am honored to be a Lion of Judah, Women’s Philanthropy Council member and co-chair of this year’s Women’s VOICES where everyone can make a difference. The connections that I have made through volunteerism and philanthropy have truly enriched my life.”
Tanya Newman, who has lived in Orange County since 1998, grew up in New York with a healthy Jewish identity. She said, “As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor mother who survived the war with fake papers saying she was Catholic, and a South African father with Lithuanian parents who fled in the early 1900’s, my immigrant parents taught their three girls the importance and fragility of a Jewish identity and community.”
After organizing Jewish events at college and getting involved in the Jewish community in Los Angeles, she moved to Orange County after marrying her husband Adam and joined a temple and havurah. One of the couples was already involved with JFedOC and invited them to some events. “That is what started my journey with JFedOC,” she said. “I remember my first Women’s VOICES event. Since then I have been a part of Women’s Philanthropy. I have co-chaired the annual Women’s VOICES luncheon the last three years and also participated in Reading Partners with the same kindergarten teacher for almost 20 years. I am part of the Pomegranate Society and it has been my mission to try and bring on my friends and other new people over the years. If not us, then who?”
Since 2000, Lisa Shatzkin Fischer has prioritized her involvement with the Orange County Jewish community. While simultaneously working full-time, raising three girls, and volunteering for other organizations, Lisa held many positions on the Parent Association of Tarbut V’Torah (TVT) and served on the board of Congregation B’nai Israel. Her claim to fame was making hundreds of latkes during Hanukkah for all of TVT.
In 2018, Lisa participated in the Women’s Momentum experience (formerly JWRP), which connects Jewish women from all over the world who want to make an impact on the Jewish community. After having this experience, Lisa accepted positions on the Hadassah Southern California Board and joined JFedOC’s Women’s Philanthropy Council (WPC). In her first year on the WPC, Lisa co-chaired the first event with the new Pearl Society, in which seven new Pearls were welcomed to the community.
ILENE SCHNEIDER IS A CONTRIBUTING WRITER TO JLIFE MAGAZINE.