Tamara Harkavy — How You Help
Women’s Philanthropy: A Passion for Betterment
“I love women’s philanthropy. All of these women are coming together for the greater good of our community,” said Shari Schulhoff, one of the chairs of the Thanksgiving Mitzvah project for the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s Women’s Philanthropy division. This past year’s programs have inspired and engaged women of all ages.
The Thanksgiving Mitzvah is a signature event for Women’s Philanthropy. Along with Shari, this year’s event chairs were Vallie Freeman, Emily Werbel, Jessica Kuresman, and Carrie Goldhoff. A small group of women came together at the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry in Clifton to prepare 120 Thanksgiving meals for families in the Cincinnati community. “I love this event in particular because it is about Thanksgiving,” said Shari. “It’s not a religious holiday. It’s a holiday for families; it’s a holiday for all of us to give thanks for what we’ve been given.”
Jessica Kuresman and Carrie Goldhoff are the Chairs of Women’s Philanthropy and they agree with Shari that it’s important to reach beyond the Jewish community. “We’re going out there showing that, while we do take care of our Jewish community, we also extend beyond and take care of Cincinnati as a whole,” said Jessica.
This summer, Women’s Philanthropy raised $3,000 to purchase 300 care bags from Dignity Grows, a national organization. “They supplied us with shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and women’s hygiene products, along with the bags,” explained event organizer Marsha Barsman. “A group of women came together in July to assemble the bags, which we then donated to Freestore Food Bank, Gospel City Mission, Lighthouse, and Jewish Family Service.”
Marsha said they were able to reach their goal of $3,000 within hours due to how excited and willing to help the women in the community are. “There’s certainly the need in Cincinnati for these bags. Because of the pandemic, many people have lost their jobs or their homes through no fault of their own, and we try to help the women in our community by giving them these tools.”
This was the second year of a new initiative called Honey Cakes and Challah. Last year when many seniors were homebound during the High Holidays due to the pandemic, Women’s Philanthropy helped package and distribute honey cakes to every Jewish senior at the Kenwood by Senior Star and Cedar Village. “It was such an easy thing to do,” said Jessica. “And it meant so much to the people who received one. It was an easy decision to do it again this year.”
The Women’s Philanthropy events this year have still limited the number of participants due to COVID, but for Shari, having smaller groups is actually a benefit. “There are always so many women wanting to help at these events. With limiting to 10 or 15 people, you really feel like you’re making an impact. In the past maybe you’d make one meal bag, but now you’re able to make 10.”
It’s also a more intimate experience for those involved, and it helps lower the barrier of entry for new volunteers. “I’m seeing more and more new women volunteers at these events,” said Jessica. “I love seeing the new faces and learning about what sparked them to want to volunteer.”
Even though fewer women can physically be together, Shari said that hasn’t stopped them from donating. Even after all of the items on the Thanksgiving list had been donated, she said women still made a donation directly to the Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry. “There’s a real passion that these women have, and it’s great to see.”
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