Skip to main content

Women provide IGNITION! for Federation’s annual campaign

More than 300 women gathered at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus on Mar. 18 for IGNITION!, a luncheon hosted by Women’s Philanthropy in support of the Federation’s annual campaign. Attendees were inspired by speakers who shared their perspectives on the importance of the Federation to Jewish communities.

Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein expressed her gratitude to the Federation movement for helping her to escape persecution in Ethiopia and to enter Israel. She greeted the women as lions…as mothers of the children of our nation…as hope for a Jewish future.

Elizabeth, Yarden and Benee
IGNITION! Co-Chairs Elizabeth Feldman and Benée Hilton-Spiegel with Dr. Yarden Fanta-Vagenshtein, first Ethiopian woman in Israel to earn a PhD

She shared how she was forced to live in a remote village, denied transportation, resources and an education because she was Jewish, and how at age 11, she and a small group from the community decided to walk more than 800 miles through the desert to eventually reach the Promised Land of Israel. Her journey took two years to complete. She lost several loved ones along the way.

Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein recounted her experience of arriving in Israel unable to read or write and the joy she felt to be attending her first class at age 14. She shared her love for “the only country in the world with a ‘Welcome Home’ sign at its borders.”

Dr. Fanta-Vagenshtein credited the Federation movement for allowing her to become the first Ethiopian woman to earn a PhD in Israel and become a post- doctorate fellow at Harvard Graduate School of Education. She finished by telling the attendees what a privilege it was to be a part of the event, “to meet you face-to-face and encourage you to keep up the work. You are powerful and through the Federation, you make a difference to Jews around the world.”

National Women’s Philanthropy Chair-Designate Judy Altenberg shared the power of the collective impact of the Federation movement locally, in Israel and worldwide, whether providing a camp experience for youth in the former Soviet Union or watching developments in Washington DC that could affect the community, seniors and Israel.

“We as women have a choice where to give our Tzedakah,” Altenberg said. “Your giving today affects the next generation. And, when you give through the Federation, you exponentially increase the impact of your gift.”

The IGNITION! luncheon was co-chaired by Elizabeth Feldman and Benée Hilton-Spiegel.

Seeking to engage the next generation of Jewish women, more than 20 7th- and 8th- grade girls from Pardes Jewish Day School attended, as well as representatives from the Federation’s NOWGen initiative.

Contributions can be made at Information about Women’s Philanthropy can be found at

Sandy, Judy and Shari
Sandy Rife, Judy Altenberg, National Women’s Philanthropy Chair-Designate, and Shari Kanefsky, Women’s Philanthropy Board Advisor
Lily, Erin and Sherie
Lily Behboodi, Erin Searle and Sherie Siegel were among the women representing the Federation’s NOWGen initiative as the new generation of female Jewish community leaders