On Sunday night, we light the first candle of the Menorah, and each night we add light, right through the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. As Jews, we are obligated to choose light when we can. (You can read my editorial from today’s Union Tribune on this obligation here.)
This past week, at the 50th Anniversary International Lion of Judah Conference, I was part of a remarkable group of more than 1,200 Jewish women that continue to do just that, in communities across the world, including right here in San Diego. 50 years ago, a group of women in Miami, led by Norma Kipnis-Wilson and Toby Friedland z”l”, decided to help the Jews in the former Soviet Union emigrate to Israel and to the United States. They created the Lion of Judah Society to lift up philanthropic women who made a significant contribution to this effort and created a special pin to honor these women. Today, there are more than 18,000 Lions of Judah around the world that make a significant financial contribution to their Federation every year. They raised more than $200 million dollars this year to care for Jews in need, support Jews in Israel and Ukraine, improve teen mental health, secure our communities, and much, much more.
Federation in San Diego has a particularly strong tradition of women’s philanthropy and women’s leadership. We have more than 120 women today who are proud Lions of Judah, and many, many more who give generously of their time and talent to fulfill our mission. I had the privilege of traveling as part of a group of 18 Lions, to the conference where we were inspired by incredible speakers like Gabby Giffords, Deborah Lipstadt, U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield, Rep. Kathy Manning, Noa Tishby, Katie Couric and Marlee Matlin, and many other women whose names may be less familiar, but whose accomplishments and insight are no less remarkable. We’re immensely grateful to Juli Bear and Naomi Harris who co-chaired the local efforts to bring this incredible delegation of Lions, who’s ages spanned six decades, to the International Lion of Judah Conference.
I became a Lion of Judah myself when I stepped into this position, but it was not until this gathering that I truly understood the commitment, the passion, and the impact that this pin symbolizes. I will remember many moments from the three days we spent together, but the image that sticks with me is the moment in the ballroom where each delegation held a beautiful Lion scarf, like a tallit, over the heads of our community’s Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland honoree. This award has honored extraordinary women philanthropists and volunteers each year since 2004. We honored Jessica Effress this year, a dynamic leader in our Jewish community, who has been adding light for all the years she has lived in San Diego. Additionally, we had the opportunity to celebrate past award winner Lori Polin who received the award for her outstanding dedication and leadership.
Our Federation family wishes you a joyful Hanukkah, and a very happy New Year. Together, in 2023, may we always choose light.
President & Chief Executive Officer
P.S. We invite all young professionals to our Hanukkah gathering 8 Crazy Flights on Tuesday to learn more about our new giving society, The Network.