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: Toby Levine
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, Geri Liemer, Esther Messing, Gayle Moskowitz, Helice Picheney, Anne Schnesel, Lauren Spitz, 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
Arts in Recovery for Youth provides an arts-based, no-cost youth suicide prevention program. www.airyedu.com
Berkshire Bounty provides nutritious food to those experiencing food insecurity in our communities. www.berkshire-bounty.org
Berkshire Community Diaper Project ensures access to diapers for parents who struggle to afford them. berkshirecommunitydiaperproject.com/
Berkshire Grown helps sustain local farmers and delivers fresh, healthy produce to hungry families and provides farmers with winter income to buy seeds and pay operating costs. In turn, these farmers deliver fresh produce during the harvest season to food pantries, community kitchens and CSAs. berkshiregrown.org
Berkshire Hills Regional School District Project Connection provides food filled backpacks on weekends and during vacations to students and their families who qualify for free meal benefits. Visit website.
Berkshire South Regional Community Center provides a free, weekly community dinner. www.berkshiresouth.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 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
Promoting Self Sufficiency
Berkshire Area Health Education Center trains community interpreters to assist immigrant families with access to community services. www.berkshireahec.org
Berkshire Center for Justice provides free legal services to low-income residents in collaboration with other programs in the County. berkshirecenterforjustice.org
Berkshire Family and Individual Resources provides at-home services for children and adolescents 3-21 years of age with Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (DASD). www.bfair.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
Barrington Stage offers a Playwright Mentoring Project for Berkshire County youth 13-19 years of age to develop life skills and positive self-image. www.barringtonstageco.org
Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires provides recreational therapy for special needs children. www.bgcberkhires.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.
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 will speak 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.
For more information, email JWFBerkshires@gmail.com. This event is limited to the first 45 JWF members who register.
August 8, 2022 - Idyllic Country Evening at Berkshire Botanical Garden
Join us at 4:45pm for an idyllic country evening as we partake of a private tour of the gardens and the newly installed outdoor sculptures. Then, relax with friends and enjoy live music performed by The Lucky Five, a band that blends 30’s - 40’s style swing. Bring a picnic dinner, blanket or lawn chair. Beverages and dessert provided. Couples Welcome.
The cost is $25/person. For more information, email JWFBerkshires@gmail.com.
Sunday, September 18, 2022 - 2nd Annual Meals of Hope Food Packing Day
JWF members and Berkshire friends pack 50,000 meals at W.E.B. Du Bois Regional Middle School. This amazing event will provide food for thousands of families and children in our local area who suffer from food insecurity.
For information on how you can participate, email JWFBerkshires@gmail.com.
To donate, click here.
Annual Meeting and Lunch – Held June 20, 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 silent auction raised $7100 for the World Central Kitchen providing humanitarian relief to the Ukrainians. The raffle was made possible by these generous local vendors.
Meals of Hope On Sunday, September 19, 2021 147 volunteers enthusiastically packed 25,000 meals for distribution by the western Massachusetts foodbank to individual food banks.
“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
2020 GRANT TESTIMONIALS
Berkshire Baby Box
“We received a very generous donation to help support our efforts with keeping Berkshire Baby Box as an all-county initiative for all new families in Berkshire County. The timing was perfect as we had just received an invoice from the Halo Sleep Sack folks for $3,000. So far, we have been able to keep our inventory strong and we look forward to continuing to do so. This donation helps considerably!!!”
- Hinda and Bill Bodinger, Co-Executive Directors
Berkshire Immigrant Center
“On behalf of Team BIC, I want to say that we are deeply grateful to the Jewish Women’s Federation for the generous $5,000 grant! We unexpectedly had another bump in student enrollment in the citizenship examination preparation class at the end of the summer, so our Education Coordinator’s hours increased yet again. Since August she has been working 18 hours per week to fit in all BIC’s new civics students instead of the budgeted 16 hours. Nine of these students took their citizenship tests earlier this week! The JWF Grant is BIC’s largest in support of our civics program. Thank you for your continued partnership and this amazing gift.”
- Michelle Lopez, Executive Director
196 South Street Pittsfield, MA 01201