The crowd of approximately 150 women assembled last week in Beth El Congregation’s Offit Auditorium for their annual meeting, and to commemorate 70 years of action and accomplishment by Associated Women, was a living representation of the span of service and philanthropy that has benefited the greater Baltimore area and beyond since the end of World War II.
“One of the first things I ever did was go to people’s houses, door to door, collecting pledges,” said Ruth Taubman, involved with Associated Women for about 60 years. Taubman, who grew up around Forest Park and now lives in Pikesville, still solicits for the organization, but via phone.
“When I was little, my parents had some help,” from The Associated, she said, “It felt good that I was fortunate enough to give back.”
The event, co-chaired by Judi Fader and Joanie Young, also gave thanks to outgoing executive committee members and installed incoming officers.
Michele Lax, the organization’s new president, said she was “truly humbled and honored” by the group of women she has served alongside and said the work with Associated Women “gives my life meaning and fulfillment.”
To mark its 70-year milestone, a 40-page booklet was created and distributed to everyone attending the event, which details the group’s history through a timeline of events and also with historic and contemporary photos, program success stories and anecdotes from many of the members.
The group’s advocacy and philanthropy began as the Women’s Campaign Committee in 1945, and 12 years later became the Women’s Division. In 1993, it was renamed the Women’s Department and became a fully operating division within The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Updated again five years ago, the organization’s mission was revised and the name changed to its current Associated Women.
Also to commemorate ongoing dedication to community, on each table were rainbow-colored backpacks and stacks of new school supplies, 70 of which will be filled and sent to second- and third-grade students at Fallstaff Elementary Middle School for the upcoming school year. Fallstaff is a partner school with the Jewish Volunteer Connection and CHAI. Attendees were invited to add a personal note to be included in each backpack as well.
Diane Israel, 66, and incoming chair of CHANA, recalled her participation in the organization’s first women’s Seder and her travel on a memorable and meaningful “women’s mission to Israel to experience other women and support Israel” as highlights of her almost 40 years of involvement.
Nancy Gertner, 64, who since 1980 has been president, campaign chair and led a mission to Israel, said one of the most important things about her involvement has been that “I’ve taught my two daughters what’s important about the Jewish world” around them. And Alyson Friedman, 48, president of CHANA and a JFNA National Women’s Philanthropy board member, said for her, Associated Women is “about connecting with other passionate women who share the same Jewish values and commitment to learning and serving the Jewish community.”
Outgoing president Rina Janet was honored. Rabbi Dana Saroken described her as “a woman who cares about our community and is guided by her faith,” and Marc Terrill, Associated president, said she “served with distinction and valor and made such a difference.” To the Associated Women, Terrill added, “Thank you for your advocacy and leadership.”
In a well-kept surprise and ultimately moving presentation, Janet’s future daughter-in-law, Corinne Bernstein, said Janet “truly loves and believes in growing the Jewish community of Baltimore,” and that “in a world of selfies, Rina is truly selfless” when it comes to donating her time and energy to fundraising and in her continued support for Israel.
Shelly Malis, 2015 Women’s Annual Campaign chair, announced Associated Women has contributed $7.5 million toward the $30.5 million Associated annual campaign goal and added there are 13 new Lions of Judah-level donors and 16 new Pomegranate-level donors this year.
Anna Levin, 29, who is in her second year of the two-year Dor Tikvah program, which introduces young women to the breadth of Associated programs, provides hands-on leadership training and helps participants focus their philanthropic interests and strengths, said it’s been “a wonderful experience” learning about the opportunities in Baltimore, and she’s “very passionate about being involved in the Jewish community.”
Annette Cooper chaired the creation of the anniversary history book, and in her comments she echoed the sentiment of many speakers during the evening when she said, “We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, … and I’m confident that we will have another generation of shoulders to stand on.”