The Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires, in the spirit of Tikkun Olam, is dedicated to addressing critical needs in the Berkshire community and supporting social action to create a more just and equitable society.
Through grant funding and member engagement we pursue our mission to empower and strengthen organizations working to improve the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Why is This Our Mission?
Berkshire County is one of the poorest counties in Massachusetts. Too many of our neighbors experience food insecurity and cannot pay for adequate fuel in winter. Berkshire residents also lag in health outcomes and length of life compared to those in the rest of the State.
How Do We Fulfill Our Mission?
We give back by
Under the leadership of Jane Glaser, JWF was started in 2009 by a small group of women moved by the needs in the Berkshire community. Collaborating with the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, our founders realized that they could help support some of Federation’s programs and also create new programs beneficial to the Berkshire community at large. As our membership grew, we established a Grants Program to solicit and review grant applications and recommend allocation of funds.
Co-Presidents: Geri Liemer and Carol Striker
Immediate Past Presidents: Phyllis Cohen and Robin Weiser
Secretary: Linda Noonan
Grants Committee Chair: Esther Messing and Arlene Schiff
Membership Committee Co-Chairs: Pommy Levy and Marian Faytell
Publicity Committee Chair: Susan Abramowitz
Volunteer Committee Co-Chairs: Liz Jaffe and Joan Ury
Board Members: Judi Adler, Louise Galpern, Jane Glaser, Joan Kleinman, Toby Levine, Barbara Lozner, Linda Noonan, Helice Picheny, Anne Schnesel, Lauren Spitz, and Audrey Weiner
Ex Officio: Bobbi Cohn, Jane Glaser, Marilyn Katzman, Shirley Yohalem
Established in 2009, JWF, under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires, has since granted a total of more than $400,000 to community organizations.
In 2023 our Grants Committee voted to award twenty four local organizations grants totaling $79,000 for basic needs, self sufficiency and youth empowerment. We welcome local organizations to apply for grants.
Addressing Basic Needs
Berkshire Bounty provides nutritious food to local food distribution organizations to mitigate food insecurity throughout Berkshire County. The Food Purchase Program increases the amount of nutritious food collected, purchased, and delivered to those in need. www.berkshire-bounty.org
Berkshire Community Diaper Project provides diapers to low and moderate income families. Diapers are a basic necessity for infants. Despite the cost they are not covered by WIC or SNAP programs. The Diaper Distribution Program delivers diapers to its partner agencies for families in need. berkshirecommunitydiaperproject.com
Berkshire Grown works to create a thriving Berkshire food economy through outreach, farm support and access to locally grown food. The Share the Bounty program supports local farmers by purchasing CSA shares in the winter and providing fresh, locally grown food to local food pantries. berkshiregrown.org
Berkshire Hills Regional School District - Project Connectional Healthy Snacks Initiative provides almost 17,000 healthy snacks to elementary, middle, and high schools students in after school programs.
Berkshire South Regional Community Center aims to build a sense of community, enhance the recreational, educational, cultural, health and social well-being of the residents of the Southern Berkshires. The Free Community Supper Program provides a free, weekly community dinner to help alleviate food insecurity and build community among a diverse group of people. This new program offers training for immigrant community members who will receive training at competitive wages in meal preparation. berkshiresouth.org
The Christian Center of Pittsfield, open five days a week, is the primary food pantry and meal site on the Westside. The Supplemental Milk and Egg Program allows 1500 to 2000 clients to benefit from an increased allotment of milk and eggs. christiancenterpittsfield.org
Construct is the leading nonprofit provider for affordable housing and supportive services across the southern Berkshires. Transportation Services for Construct Transitional Housing will provide taxi and volunteer mileage for women in transitional housing to commute to work or plan basic errands. constructberkshires.org
Greenagers engages teens and young adults with meaningful work in environmental conservation and addresses food insecurity. The Food Justice Initiative educates youth in sustainable agriculture and food justice issues. They aim to increase the region’s capacity to grow and provide food by installing vegetable gardens free for income-eligible families offering advice to garden owners, community gardening workshops open to the public, and donating produce to pantries. greenagers.org
Guthrie Center works with other local agencies to serve Berkshire County residents in need of support and creates an environment where individuals can come together to cultivate an awareness of culture, humanity, and the environment. The Community Lunch Program offers weekly free community lunch for local residents with financial and other challenges; the kitchen update is required for licensing to continue the Free Lunch Program. guthriecenter.org
The Peoples’ Pantry mission is to respectfully serve Berkshire residents experiencing food insecurity. The Food Distribution Program provides healthy, locally sourced food to our neighbors concerned about meeting basic needs. The Pantry is serving many more young and multi-generational families, as well as recent immigrants. christiancenterpittsfield.org
Roots and Dreams & Mustard Seeds is an immigrant led organization that serves almost 1200 low-income Pittsfield residents. Mercado De Vida is a food pantry co-led by Latina immigrants providing culturally compatible fresh organic food and vegetables to immigrant families, the homeless, single mothers, and members with disabilities. rootsandmustardseeds.com
Roots Rising empowers youth and builds community through food and farming. The Pittsfield Farmers Market, a year-round teen-run market increases the buying power of low income residents using WIC, SNAP, and other benefits by providing matching funds and engaging Pittsfield youth in work on farms, in food pantries and at the farmer’s market. www.rootsrising.org
Promoting Self Sufficiency
Berkshire Black Economic Council fosters Berkshire Black businesses through technical assistance to aid and advocate for economic development with respect to education, neighborhood revitalization, arts and culture, business ownership, social programming, environmental justice, recruitment and retention of Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. Vibe North Street is a storefront recruitment program that gives preference to minority and women-owned businesses. berkshirebec.org
Berkshire Immigrant Center advocates for the rights of all immigrants by helping them navigate the U.S. immigration system with affordable legal services and education. The Education Program provides free citizenship examination preparation classes and beginning classes in English to immigrants. berkshireic.org
Community Health Programs serves those with limited access to care. The ParentChild+ Program addresses the parenting needs of families in the community whose children are at risk for educational success due to obstacles in school and in life by providing educational toys, books, and the cost of field trips for enrichment. chpberkshires.org
Community Legal Aid provides free non-profit civil legal aid for low income and elderly residents that protects fundamental rights, secures access to basic needs such as: safe and stable housing; educational services; and income-stabilizing benefits. communitylegal.org
18 Degrees’ EMPath program helps under-resourced families work towards self-sufficiency. 18degreesma.org
Elizabeth Freeman Center is the domestic/dating/sexual violence response agency serving Berkshire County. The Money School (Escuela de Finanzas) Project is a financial independence initiative that addresses the needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. elizabethfreemancenter.org
Grace Church Episcopal works with food pantries throughout the Southern Berkshires primarily empowering youth and young adults through its flagship program, Gideon’s Garden, teaching them the power of volunteering and the necessity of community. graceberkshires.org
Literacy Network provides LitNet tutors with tutor training workshops paired with beginning English learners. The goal of the workshops is to provide the new tutors with the books, resources, lesson plans and educational approaches to best guide new English speakers. litnetsb.org
Second Street Second Choices provides a central point of access where the formerly incarcerated of Berkshire County connect with the tools, programs, and support to encourage a successful re-entry into the community with dignity and sustainable opportunities to thrive. 2nd-street.org
Volunteers in Medicine offers free, comprehensive healthcare for Berkshire adults who do not qualify for government supported health insurance. A Path to Citizenship is a pilot program coordinating and supporting immigrant/refugee medical needs while supporting their legal pathways for asylum. vimberkshires.org
Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center/Girls Inc. of the Berkshires supports the Eureka! program that introduces young women to STEM careers through a supportive environment, STEM summer camp at MCLA and mentoring from caring, understanding adults. brighamcenter.org
Railroad Street Youth Project provides group mentoring specifically designed for students of color. It expands horizons of young people by providing them with the sense of community and providing the support they need outside of schools and family. rsyp.org
With over 200 members who are passionate about giving back to the Berkshire Community, JWF uses the power of philanthropy to contribute to the betterment of our neighbors. The Berkshires has so many cultural and natural wonders that it is hard to believe it is one of the poorest counties in Massachusetts. But our reach is limited by available resources, which are dependent on the size of its membership.
Your annual $750 contribution supports our grants program and enables us to help non-profit organizations improve the lives of our neighbors. All members are invited to serve on the Grants Committee, which decides how the funds are distributed.
There are many opportunities to become involved both within JWF and in the organizations JWF supports through our grants program.
To learn more, contact JWFberkshires@gmail.com and you will be contacted by the appropriate Committee Chair.
New and Prospective Member Brunch, August 10th, 2023
Pommy Levy and Marian Faytell, our Membership Chairs, hosted a New and Prospective Member Coffee at Pommy’s beautiful home in Stockbridge. Over twenty new and prospective members joined us to discuss our organization, why they joined and what we can do at JWF to engage new members to help us all fulfill our mission. What was most exciting was learning about each new member and their incredible careers. We were particularly thrilled to meet these dynamic new women and look forward to working with them this year and beyond.
Card Party and Luncheon, August 18th, 2023
We want to send a special thank you to Linda Ketay and Louise Galpern for chairing our very successful card party at the Pittsfield Country Club. Men and women joined in the fun playing a potpourri of card games, sharing a delightful lunch, and raising funds for our organization. With this money, JWF can better provide much needed additional support to help fulfill our mission.
JWF and United Way Partner to Feed the Hungry, October 9th, 2023
Joan Ury, Chair of Volunteers, organized a successful food packing event in collaboration with United Way and Berkshire Bounty. Fresh food was packed and delivered to our local food pantries. Great Barrington Community Center, one of our grantees, generously donated the space for our event.
Community Vigil for Israel, October 11, 2023
Coffee and Conversation. October 12, 2023
Strategic Planning Committee Chairs Susan Abramowitz and Marian Faytell organized an inspiring Coffee and Conversation about our collaborative work with the growing Berkshire immigrant population. Ilana Steinhauer, Executive Director of Volunteers in Medicine, Melissa Canavan, Executive Director of the Berkshire Immigrant Center, and Diane Pearlman, Executive Director of the Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative and past Board President of Berkshire Pulse, shared their work with immigrants, the only growing population in the Berkshires.
“I’m so inspired by JWF’s grants. The needs are so great, I feel it’s incumbent upon each of us to do whatever we can to help alleviate problems facing so many in our community.
“Joining the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires has added another wonderful dimension to my life in the Berkshires. It has given me an opportunity to give back to this magical community. I feel it is truly a gift to be a member of the Foundation. To be able to be a part of all the important work it does for so many people.”
– Pommy Levy
“I’m proud to be a charter member of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires as we’ve done so much to help our less fortunate neighbors in both the Jewish and greater communities. Most people think of this area as one of arts and culture without realizing that it is actually one of the poorest in the region. Helping to combat food and housing insecurity, promoting education, empowering women, as well as caring for Jewish youth and seniors represent a small sampling of what we’ve accomplished. Working with other bright and caring women towards tikkun olam is one of the most gratifying experiences ever.”
- Bobbi Cohn
“As a privileged second homeowner who enjoys all the cultural and social blessings of the Berkshires, I was unaware and ignorant of the financial and emotional stresses that many residents face in their daily lives. Only after I volunteered at the Muddy Brook School’s tutoring program and joined the Jewish Women’s Foundation Grants Committee did I become cognizant of the needs of people in the community who are struggling and are largely invisible to us. They are experiencing food insecurity, employment instability, a deficit of skills and resources to help them cope with huge ongoing pressures, made more acute during this pandemic period.”
- Elaine Cohen
“I found that packing boxes for Meals of Hope so personally rewarding - I couldn’t stop smiling when I left. This organization is so focused on its goals - I think most people are unaware of the level of poverty in this area. Kudos to our organizers.”
- Sue Sussman
2022 GRANT TESTIMONIALS
“This grant is arriving just in time to be factored into our plans to upgrade our facilities for our clients and our many volunteers. We could not do this without community supporters like you.”
- Nancy Cook, South Community Food Pantry
“Your generosity helps us further our mission to connect young people with their community and the great outdoors in hands-on, meaningful ways.”
- Will Conklin, Executive Director, Greenagers
“…thank you for your contribution and support. Your donations are vital to our ongoing impact on food insecurity in our community.”
- Morgan Ovitsky, Executive Director, Berkshire Bounty
“This grant will help participants make strides toward financial independence and self-sufficiency and position themselves and their children for a better future. We couldn’t do it without you and we are full of gratitude for your generosity.”
- Sarah Cook, President and CEO, 18 Degrees
196 South Street Pittsfield, MA 01201