Women bring a sensitive approach to philanthropy, says trauma center head

In panel discussion at the GA of the Jewish Federations of North America what women bring to philanthropy is discussed

November 12, 2013 03:54
2 minute read.
Raya Strauss

Raya Strauss. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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Women bring a uniquely sensitive and personal approach to philanthropy in the Jewish world, a leading female philanthropist said on Monday.

In a panel discussion at the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, Judith Yovel Recanati said that both men and women can lead philanthropic projects successfully. But, she said, women can bring different skills to the field.

“I can see that the women add to philanthropy another angle which is more – I’m sorry for the men here, I want to apologize – I think that women bring something which is more with sensitivity,” said Recanati, who leads the NATAL Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War and the Gandyr Family Foundation.

There were only about a dozen men among the scores of women who attended the discussion.

The approach of women is different by emphasizing personal contact in the causes they fund and “not see it just as really a business,” she said.

The moderator – Ann Pava, the chair of JFNA’s women’s philanthropy – asked a variety of audience-submitted questions, including regarding the challenges faced by women in this field.

“I look forward to women being the leaders of philanthropy in the next generation,” said Alisa Robbins Doctoroff, the president of the board of UJA-Federation of New York.

But, she said, women “haven’t taken charge as much as we can.”

“We haven’t seen it as our role to give the big gifts, million dollar gifts, the major philanthropists take that role on completely and passionately,” she said, noting she was making a generalization.

“And I think we’ve been until now – and there are obviously exceptions to this – more tentative than we need to be, smaller minded than we need to be. And we need to be expansive in our vision and how we utilize our dollars,” she added.

Joanna Landau, the founder and executive director of an Israel-focused educational nonprofit called Kinetis, spoke about how she decided on which organizations to support.

“I think that one needs to be aware of what motivates them, what they wake up in the morning thinking about,” Landau said. When she began her involvement in philanthropy, she needed to go through this search herself.

“I know I’m a passionate person,” she said, recalling her thinking. “But I don’t know what I’m passionate about.”

Eventually, she settled on supporting Israel education.

Later in the panel, Racanati expanded on Landau’s discussion of the importance of passion. She said, “you need to open your heart and be able to see the other and see the needs” and emphasized there are many resources available to those interested in philanthropy.

Raya Strauss Bendror said she faced identity challenges when she started playing a role in her family’s outreach and donations.

“I was born into the dairy [field],” she said, to audience laughter. Her family’s namesake company, Strauss Group, markets food products such as milk and cheese.

Deciding to turn her focus at least partly from food, Bendror focuses on improving the quality of life in the Western Galilee.

Like Bendror, Recanati also grew up in a family committed to philanthropy.

“It really made me slowly, slowly think, ‘What is my part in it’ because I knew that one day I would be in the shoes of my parents and I would be the one,” she said.

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