On Wednesday, May 13th, Seventy Lion of Judah* donors – many of whom brought their daughters – gathered in the University Club for the annual Lion of Judah luncheon.
Luncheon co-chairs Gina Guertin and Lori Polin welcomed the room of women and thanked them for their incredible generosity and philanthropic leadership, which is the backbone of Women’s Philanthropy.
Highlighting the luncheon was Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein, the first Ethiopian woman to receive a Ph.D. in Israel. Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein recounted her tumultuous childhood in Ethiopia, where she grew up illiterate, and where she and her family were forced to live in a remote village, denied access to transportation, resources, and an education due to the fact that they were Jewish.
At age 11, she and a small group from the community decided to walk more than 800 miles through the desert to escape persecution and to make their way to a refugee camp in Sudan. The arduous journey took two years and she lost several loved ones along the way. With visible emotion, she thanked the Lions’ for their support, which enabled Federation and global partners, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI), to help her establish her new life in Israel.
The luncheon also honored Lion of Judah donors who have established a Lion of Judah Endowment (LOJE). Jewish Community Foundation Chair, Jane Scher, explained the significance of endowing a Lion gift, and acknowledged the 55 women who have already established a LOJE. Special honor was given to the LOJE women who have passed away, including moving remarks by Alan Viterbi, who, with his father, Andrew, memorialized Erna and recalled her commitment to the special endowment.
Outgoing Federation board chair, Theresa Dupuis, concluded the program by thanking the women for their generosity and leadership, and shared some inspiring remarks on the conclusion of her chairmanship.