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Chailight on our Chai Chair

An Interview with Lesley Wolman

Inspired by close friends and leaders of our community, Lesley Wolman has been a part of the Federation for many years serving in various Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy roles. Her commitment to Jews in L.A. and around the world as a 2018 Chai Committee Co-Chair is especially inspiring and impactful. Her work is in preparation for our annual Chai/Emerald/Zahav, Ruby and Lion of Judah Luncheon that celebrates women in Los Angeles who have gone above and beyond to support our community and the work of our Federation. 

How are you involved with the Federation?

I am an active member of both Women’s Philanthropy and the Caring for Jews In Need committee. Additionally, as a Lion of Judah, I have served on several cabinets, and I have held various positions. I co-chaired the Pritzker Series, Lion Outreach, the annual LOJ Luncheon, and was the Ruby Co-chair. Currently, I am the Chai/Emerald/Zahav Co-chair.

Fun fact: I performed highlights from my show, “Jewish Women in Song,” at my very first Pritzker event at the home of Ada Horwich in 2009. Since then, I have hosted several Pritzker events in my home — something I truly enjoy doing!

What inspired you to become a Lion?

My inspiration for becoming a Lion was — and still is — my friend Julie Platt. Julie invited me to a Lion Outreach event in 2008. Julie has always been a role model for me, especially philanthropically. She knew that I was looking for ways to become deeply involved in our Jewish community, and she invited me to the event to learn about ways to do that. At the time, Julie was the Chair of Women’s Philanthropy. I made my decision to become a Lion of Judah on the morning of the event. It was very important to me to become a Lion while she was our leader.

Why is it important for women to be Lions? How has it empowered you?

As a Jewish woman living in North America, I feel it is incumbent upon me to be involved in my community, especially as a leader. I feel that it is my responsibility to do the work necessary to nurture our Jewish roots and to strengthen our Jewish bonds, not only here in Los Angeles, but also wherever our help is needed. Having traveled on several Federation missions, I have seen firsthand the incredible work of our Los Angeles Federation. Meeting the recipients of the aid provided by our Federation in places like Berlin, Moscow, and Buenos Aires, was both gratifying and educational. The Jewish Federation, specifically Sylvia Weiss Women’s Philanthropy, provides so many opportunities to give back and enrich the lives of others. Being a Lion allows me to meet and form meaningful, lifelong friendships with like-minded women whose shared values focus on Judaism and community.

What connects you to the Jewish community, Judaism, and The Jewish Federation?

From the time I was a young girl growing up in Winnipeg, my life has always been infused with a love of Judaism, the Hebrew language, Israeli music, arts, and culture. The combination of attending and graduating from a Hebrew day school, performing in a Jewish folk ensemble, and attending Jewish summer camp only strengthened my love for my Jewish heritage and the Jewish people. Attending the Hebrew University while our family lived in Jerusalem for the year intensified my love of Israel and reinforced the Zionist ideal. The Jewish Federation allows me to continue to promote and express my love of our culture, religion, and people at the community level. It has enriched my life immensely.

Why did you decide to increase your giving to the Chai level?

Over the years, as a Lion of Judah, I have made incremental increases in my giving. I have been incredibly moved by meeting and hearing from the recipients of our work. Just as Julie Platt’s tenure as Women’s Philanthropy Chair pushed me to become a Lion, it was important for me to increase to the Chai level while Julie was our Federation’s Chair of the Board. My donation increased as a meaningful act of giving back and honoring our friendship. During each caucus at the International Lion of Judah Conference, I have announced my desire to increase my level of giving. Advancing to the Chai level felt like a natural progression for me.

What lessons do you want to pass on to your children?

Tikkun olam and tzedakah. These are the values that were instilled in me by my parents and grandparents, and I hope that they will continue for our future generations. Being a member of Jewish Federation Los Angeles provides us with countless opportunities to embody these values and to grow and thrive.

Jewish Federation Los Angeles’ Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy is a diverse community of compassionate and committed Jewish women connected by Jewish values. To learn more about Women’s Philanthropy and to get involved, visit www.JewishLA.org/Women or e-mail WomensPhilanthropy@JewishLA.org.

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