It could be said that 2020 was the year of the woman. As the world was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, women were shining examples of leadership, tenacity and resilience, despite often being pushed to their limits. They pivoted and adjusted, balancing work from home with childcare, managing teams through unchartered territory, and leading philanthropic efforts to care for people in need. Women heads of state were even recognized for their effective responses to COVID-19. It’s no wonder, then, that Women’s VOICES, the annual women’s fundraising luncheon sponsored by Jewish Federation of Orange County’s Women’s Philanthropy, is celebrating all women this year.
Under the tagline, “YOU are woman of the year, “ VOICES is departing from its practice of honoring one community leader to acknowledge the many ways in which Jewish women throughout the county have led with their heads and hearts. In a most challenging year, women in our community have cared for their loved ones while bolstering their businesses and organizations and stepping up philanthropically and as volunteers to support communal needs.
An OC Business Journal Top 5 Charity Luncheon since 2014, Women’s VOICES brings together hundreds of women philanthropists to raise critical funds for the OC Jewish community – funds that provide care for Holocaust survivors, grants for people in financial crisis, scholarships for Jewish education, and a wide range of Jewish engagement and leadership development programs. With the ongoing need to social distance, this year’s VOICES will be virtual, broadcast live on Remo, an interactive networking platform that gives users as close to an in-person experience as digitally possible.
This year’s featured speakers are journalist and author Bari Weiss and writer and educator Dr. Erica Brown. Weiss, a native of the Pittsburgh community of Squirrel Hill where the tragic synagogue shooting took place in 2018, and a former New York Times opinion editor and columnist, made headlines last year when she resigned from the paper citing a hostile culture and lack of ideological diversity. Her 2019 book, “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” unpacks the diverse manifestations of contemporary anti-Semitism and exposes the threats Jews in the U.S. face as it makes its way into the mainstream. Described as a leading voice of Jewish advocacy for a new generation, Weiss calls on Americans of all faiths and backgrounds to combat the danger of antisemitism to American society and its cherished values.
Dr. Erica Brown is Director of the Mayberg Center for Jewish Education and Leadership at George Washington University. A scholar of Jewish texts and professor of pedagogy and curriculum, she is renowned for her award-winning writings on Jewish leadership, the Bible, spirituality and women’s empowerment. Her 2015 book, “Inspired Jewish Leadership,” is a blueprint for Jewish professionals and lay leaders seeking to work through contemporary leadership issues.
Virtual Women’s VOICES will take place on Sunday, May 23 from 10:00 to 11:00 am and is open to all women in the community. Information and registration are available at www.JewishOC.org/VOICES.
THE WOMEN BEHIND VIRTUAL WOMEN’S VOICES
Women’s VOICES, the signature event of Jewish Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy, celebrates the important role women play in building a strong Orange County Jewish community. The event, which gathers hundreds of women for an afternoon of socializing and celebrating, requires many hours of hard work behind the scenes each year to ensure its success. In this year of celebrating the contributions of all women in our community, Jewish Federation salutes the women leaders who have been instrumental to Virtual
Women’s VOICES 2021.
ANDREA ALFI, CHAIR, WOMEN’S PHILANTHROPY
Q: What inspires your leadership?
AA: I come from a family where the women are the givers of the family. My great-grandma Miriam was known for her gracious hospitality, her amazing apple cake, and for her philanthropy. She encouraged my grandma, my mom, and me to give tzedakah and to be active in our communities. After she passed, my grandma endowed a scholarship in her name. Just as I bake apple cake every Rosh Hashanah in her honor, I also give and teach my children to give.
Q: What’s Jewish about your Jewish leadership?
AA: There’s midrash about Moses pursuing a lost sheep. He not only found it, but took the time to figure out why it ran away and he carried it back home. It’s important to me to always look for the lone sheep in our community. Who is new in this crowd? Who isn’t being engaged? Who feels left out? It’s important to find the people who don’t feel connected to our community, figure out what’s keeping them away, and do what we can to help them feel part of the community.
Q: What are your leadership goals?
AA: I would love for every woman in Orange County to find connection within Jewish Federation and Women’s Philanthropy. If she doesn’t feel at home with us yet, I want to help her understand the important work that we do and find where she fits.
TANYA NEWMAN, VIRTUAL WOMEN’S VOICES CO-CHAIR & VICE PRESIDENT OF PHILANTHROPY
Q: Why is Jewish community important to you?
TN: I was raised in a Jewish home and I am a first generation American. My father’s family is from South Africa. My mother and her family survived the war in Austria by hiding as Catholics. Their life experiences shaped them, my sisters and me. They taught us that living a Jewish life and being a part of a Jewish community is important. That was my impetus for getting involved with my Orange County Jewish community.
Q: Why did you take on a leadership role with Jewish Federation?
TN: A friend invited me to Women’s VOICES a few years ago. I found it so deeply meaningful and I felt compelled to take on a significant role in making it a showcase for the philanthropic role of women. The importance of this work and the wonderful, committed friends I make along the way keep me motivated and compel me to take on bigger challenges.
ISABELLE TISCHLER, VIRTUAL VOICES CO-CHAIR
Q: What motivated you to become involved in leadership with Jewish Federation?
IT: I became involved with the JFOC because of the important role it plays in the community by supporting a wide variety of programs, from helping the Holocaust survivors to funding teen leadership programs. I stay engaged because of the amazing women who give their time, skills, creativity and kindness to support these Jewish causes.
Q: What inspires your Jewish leadership?
IT: My passion for education and for Israel, sharing Jewish values and opportunities for tikkun olam [repairing the world], learning from Jewish community leaders about community issues, being involved and giving back to the community. To me, Jewish leadership is about strengthening the Jewish community, making more Jewish connections, addressing the rise of anti-Semitism, especially on college campuses, and inspiring young generations to become leaders.
Q: What words of wisdom would you pass on to aspiring Jewish women leaders?
IT: Kindness, forgiveness and tolerance are my words of leadership wisdom. Women have to wear many hats as mothers, daughters, sisters, spouses, friends, and co-workers. We have a lot to navigate but keeping these words of wisdom in mind has given me the strength and power to overcome challenging situations.