In the spirit of tikkun olam, the Jewish Women’s Foundation of the Berkshires is dedicated to sharing Jewish values by addressing needs in the community and supporting social action. Each member pledges $500 annually enabling us to fulfill our mission by providing local organizations with funds to address these needs.
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: Phyllis Cohen and Robin Weiser
Secretary: Joan Ury
Immediate Past Presidents: Liz Jaffe and Elaine Silberstein
Grants Committee Chair: Esther Messing
Membership Committee Co-Chairs: Pommy Levy and Marian Faytell
Cultural Events Committee Chair: Carol Striker
Publicity Committee Chair: Susan Abramowitz
Volunteer Committee Co-Chairs: Liz Jaffe and Joan Ury
Board Members: Judi Adler, Louise Galpern, Joan Kleinman, Toby Levine, Geri Liemer, Gayle Moskowitz, Helice Picheney, 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 2021, JWF allocated $59,270 in community grants to 18 local organizations. Additionally, JWF supports camp scholarships; the PJ Library; cultural and social events for community members of all ages; food and fuel assistance; and a transportation network.
Addressing Basic Needs
Berkshire Bounty provides nutritious food to those experiencing food insecurity in our communities. www.berkshire-bounty.org
Greenagers engages teens and young adults with meaningful work in environmental conservation and addresses food insecurity by installing vegetable gardens free for income-eligible families. www.greenagers.org
Guthrie Center offers weekly free community lunch for local residents with financial and other challenges. www.guthriecenter.org
Roots and Dreams & Mustard Seeds is an immigrant led organization providing fresh organic food and vegetables to 750 individuals every week. rootsandmustardseeds.com
Roots Rising increases the buying power of residents with 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
South Community Food Pantry provides family-selected food items to almost 3,000 family members a year. www.southcommunityfoodpantry.org
Promoting Self Sufficiency
Arts in Recovery for Youth provides an arts-based, no-cost youth suicide prevention program. www.airyedu.com
Berkshire Center for Justice provides free and low cost legal services to low-income residents in collaboration with other programs in the County. berkshirecenterforjustice.org
Berkshire Immigrant Center provides free citizenship examination preparation classes to immigrants. berkshireic.org
Community Health Programs addresses the parenting needs of families in the community giving caregivers the tools they need to be effective parents and to treat their children with respect while enacting positive discipline techniques. chpberkshires.org
18 Degrees’ EMPath program helps under-resourced families work towards self-sufficiency. www.18degreesma.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. www.litnetsb.org
Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity provides an arts program for middle school aged children encouraging childhood that supports diversity through visual, digital, and performing arts. www.Berkshirehabitat.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 $500 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.
Check back regularly for upcoming events.
Annual Meeting and Lunch – Held June 24, 2022 at Pittsfield Country Club
Over 128 women attended the 2022 Annual Meeting and Lunch held at Pittsfield Country Club. Annie and Abe Guthrie provided lively entertainment followed by three JWF grantees – Berkshire Grown, Berkshire Bounty and the Guthrie Center - who presented their timely work addressing food insecurity in the Berkshires. A raffle spearheaded by Jane Glaser raised $7700 for the World Central Kitchen providing humanitarian relief to the Ukrainians. The raffle was made possible by these generous local vendors.
July 20, 2022 - Coffee and Conversation with Talia Carner
Award-winning novelist, former publisher, activist of global human rights, and a Gold level Toastmasters’ speaker, Talia spoke about her novel, The Third Daughter. This historical novel exposes a shameful chapter in Jewish history at the turn of the century, involving the sex trafficking of young Jewish girls from Eastern Europe to South America.
August 8, 2022 - Idyllic Country Evening at Berkshire Botanical Garden
JWF members and friends enjoyed an Idyllic Country evening at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. A private tour of the gardens and the newly installed outdoor sculptures was followed by a live music performance by The Lucky Five. Members picnicked, danced, mingled and celebrated. A good time was had by all.
Meals of Hope September 18, 2022: JWF Addresses Food Insecurity in the Berkshires
This year, we again partnered with Meals of Hope to pack meals for distribution to food pantries across Berkshire County. Chaired by Lauren Spitz, the event relied on 124 wonderful volunteers who came out on a sunny Sunday morning to pack 25,000 meals in under 2 hours. What an accomplishment!
“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