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Honoring Our Lions: An Interview with Ellen Silverman

Jewish Federation Los Angeles is hosting our annual Chai/Emerald/Zahav, Ruby & Lion of Judah Luncheon on Wednesday, February 15th.

An incredible group of strong, philanthropic, generous and dedicated women help lead our Federation’s Lions of Judah and Women’s Philanthropy. Together, these women support the impactful work of our Federation and are committed to ensuring the future of our community. On February 15th, the Federation will come together to honor Elaine Goldsmith with the Lea Rabin Award, and Ellen Silverman with the Ruby Award. We interviewed Ellen about what motivated her to become involved with the Federation and how her experience as a Lion has impacted her life. Mazel tov to Elaine and Ellen! Please join us on February 15th as we thank them for their leadership and dedication.

Q&A with Ellen Silverman:

How did you first become involved with The Jewish Federation?

I think by now everyone knows that I met Rochelle Cohen at Adat Ari El almost 30 years ago! She invited me to a Valley Alliance event for young women, held during the hours our kids were in preschool. I learned a lot about the work of the Federation here in Los Angeles and met some very friendly women. It felt comfortable and warm and I wanted to keep coming back.

What inspired you to become a Lion?

I became a Lion while on my very first Women’s Mission to Israel in 1999. I loved everything about the trip! It was my first time back to Israel after many years, and it was incredible to see how the country had grown and changed since I had been there last. The trip highlighted the role the Federation played in helping to grow the State of Israel. It was also very special for me to become a Lion at that time, as my mother had traveled on the mission with me, and we became Lions together while on the trip.

What have you learned about the impact of community since being part of the Federation?

A community is strongest when we all work together for a common goal. I like being part of a group that understands we have a responsibility to care for the members of our community when they are in need.

How does it feel to be honored at the upcoming Lion of Judah lunch on February 15th?

I was so surprised when I got the call. It feels overwhelming! It is humbling and a great feeling to be in the company of the women who have been honored with the Ruby Award before me.

What would you tell others who are interested in becoming Lions?

Whenever I talk to women about becoming a Lion, I try to impress upon them the powerful feeling you get when you realize you are part of this incredible group of women. Individually, every gift is important — but together, our collective impact makes a real difference in the Jewish world.

I wish that every woman has the chance to experience the impact of attending an International Lion of Judah Conference. To sit at the closing session of the conference this past September and hear that 1,100 women had just contributed $30 million dollars, and to think that I am part of that — it’s incredibly powerful.

What do you hope to see in the next five years with the Lions of Judah?

I endowed my Lion of Judah gift many years ago and as I get older, I realize how important it is to have made this commitment in perpetuity. My daughters and I have had long conversations about philanthropy and I am proud to show them what this commitment means. I hope many more women will join me in endowing their gift in the coming years, so that Sylvia Weisz Women’s Philanthropy will remain a strong and enduring force in Los Angeles for generations to come.

What are you looking forward to most this coming year?

I look forward, to our next Women’s Mission to Moscow and Israel this fall. I love having the opportunity to visit Israel so regularly and getting the chance to see what we are doing together with our partners on the ground. I also love traveling with old friends, new friends, and our amazing Federation staff. Each trip is unique and surprising and we have so much fun together. I hope you’ll join me this year!

Favorite Quote?

I have many favorite quotes, but since my girls were very little, I would say to them every day as I sent them off to school, “Be nice to everyone you meet!” I try to live my life that way!

How has Jewish Federation Los Angeles impacted your life?

So many of the wonderful things in my life have come from my involvement with the Federation. The Federation opened my eyes — it was the initial connector for me to the wider Jewish community, outside of my involvement with my synagogue. This was important to me because I am not originally from Los Angeles. Growing up in New York, my father set an example and served as a role for my siblings and me when it came to philanthropy. As an adult living in LA, I wanted to surround myself with like-minded people who felt passionately about giving back to the community. In all my years of involvement, the people I have met through Federation have become some of my closest friends.

If you care about making a difference in the world, and you want to be able to trust an organization to know where your money is best spent and will have the most impact, to me there is no better place to support than The Jewish Federation. I feel comfortable and confident knowing that my gift will be used in the place it is needed most. I am grateful for the blessings in my own life and have always felt that I have a responsibility to care for those who are less fortunate, and that is why I have made the Federation such an integral part of my life.

For more information, please contact Karen Sternfeld at KSternfeld@JewishLA.org or (323) 761-8275, or Lori Tessel at LTessel@JewishLA.org or (818) 668-2344.

Lions: click here to sign up online: www.JewishLA.org/LOJ

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