When Julie Savitch became the Women’s Philanthropy Chair, she did not expect her first year of a two-year term to be during a global pandemic. But Savitch quickly regrouped, switched gears and rose to the occasion to lead the affinity group of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and bring the community together through this isolating and challenging time. 

“The women who are involved with Women’s Philanthropy are amazing. Throughout this pandemic, they were supportive, interested and involved,” said Savitch, who is also on the Jewish Federation’s Board of Trustees and Women of Vision Advocacy Committee. “We did not miss a step, and continued with our programming and our fundraising virtually, so that our community’s needs could be taken care of without a pause.” 

A dedicated leader and philanthropist, Savitch views the response to the pandemic as a testament to what she has long known that the Jewish community is always there for one another. 

“Despite unforeseen events, we are such a strong community who care about the most vulnerable even when we ourselves are thrown off balance,” explained Savitch, a child welfare advocate and Radnor-based mother of three. “We even had a very successful virtual class of new leaders in the Women’s Leadership Development Program (WLDP)!”

As Savitch begins her second year, we spoke with the Women’s Philanthropy Chair to learn more about her, her passion for Women’s Philanthropy and the Jewish Federation, and her aspirations in the year ahead.

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What are you looking forward to in the second year of your term?

I am so excited that people are getting vaccinated and becoming more comfortable with in-person events. We are starting to offer some small group, outside events with limited attendance and are hopeful that we will be able to offer some hybrid events during the next year. We will be rolling out some new initiatives this fall, so keep your eyes open for some more exciting ways to make a difference!

How has Women's Philanthropy supported your Jewish journey in the community?

I have so many mentors, and though none of them had been leaders during a pandemic, all of them have offered words of wisdom, encouragement and each lifted me up. There is a strong contingent of past Women’s Philanthropy Chairs who continue to guide and support me. Plus, I am lucky enough to be working alongside an amazing professional team, Lindsay Davidman and Marni Davis, who help me to reach beyond my comfort zone, answer my texts at all times of the day and provide the support so that I can lead more effectively.

What is an organization, program or cause that the Jewish Federation supports that personally resonates with you? Why?

I don’t have one answer to that question. The Jewish Federation makes a vital difference in serving a variety of vulnerable populations, addressing the full-range of social service needs. We provide a safety net for the most vulnerable, and we advocate for those in distress.

In my “free time,” I am a CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate. As a CASA, I have represented seven children over the last six years, making sure that all of their basic needs are being met.These kids are the most vulnerable, with parents in prison and addicted to drugs, living in poverty in poor communities with few resources. I advocate for my kids at school, at home, in the foster care system, with their doctors and therapists. 

As Chair of Women’s Philanthropy, I am drawn to all of the programs that advocate for the most vulnerable in our community, ensuring that they are getting what they need, and beyond, with compassion and respect. 

Why do you donate to the Jewish Federation?

I am so fortunate to be able to give both my time and my financial resources to tikkun olam, and it is both my privilege and my obligation to support the Jewish community in Philadelphia, Israel and around the world. The Jewish Federation is uniquely positioned to know what the needs are throughout the community. We have a birds-eye view, and therefore can make critical allocation decisions based on needs in our community as a whole. 

What do you think is the impact of Women's Philanthropy on our Jewish community through its collective giving? 

Collective giving builds community. Women’s Philanthropy connects women of all ages, providing networking opportunities, peer support, mentoring partnerships and leadership models for so many women. Additionally, by working together for a common goal, our voices are amplified. We are able to impact the community in a much more powerful way than if we just donated on our own. 

Is there a hobby or skill that you picked up during the pandemic?

Before the pandemic, I enjoyed cooking but didn’t have the time to learn new techniques or to cook complicated meals. In the last year, I have taken several online cooking classes and have tried new recipes two or three times a week, so my cooking skills have improved. I especially love cooking Israeli food. The problem now, however, is that my family enjoys my cooking more than almost any restaurant, so I’m not sure I will be able to transition out of this role of chef!

What is something people probably don't know about you?

Here are a few little known facts:

  • I have three chickens in my backyard coop that I built myself
  • I love taking ceramics classes, and my pots are taking over my house
  • I play tennis and canasta in my free time
  • I am in three book clubs, plus I review books so that I have access to even more titles
  • I am taking Hebrew by Zoom with an Israeli teacher, so I can communicate on our next mission to Israel 

What advice would you give someone who is looking to get involved with Women's Philanthropy?

If you want to get to know a dynamic and interesting group of philanthropic-minded women of all ages, join us! There are so many ways that you could make a difference in our community. We warmly welcome all newcomers — just call, text, or send an email. 

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For more information about Women’s Philanthropy, contact Lindsay Davidman, assistant director of Women's Philanthropy, at ldavidman@jewishphilly.org or 215.832.0502.