Monday, January 14, 2013

OPTIONS 2013 Hosts a Record Breaking Evening

Campbell Brown
The energy of volunteerism and spirit of generosity were contagious at OPTIONS 2013. Nearly 1,000 San Diego Jewish women of all ages and backgrounds gathered at the Hilton San Diego Bayfront on Sunday, January 13, 2013 for an incredible evening of philanthropy, community and sharing. Mothers and daughters, sisters, and friends came together to celebrate Women’s Philanthropy and learn what more could be done for both the local community and our Jewish communities overseas.

Generously underwritten by Pauline Foster and the Foster Family Foundation, this year’s OPTIONS opened the communal tent by inviting younger women to attend at a significant discount. “We are so excited to be here,” commented Leah Newman and Katie Franko, “six of us carpooled here!” Leah, the Assistant Director of Hillel at UCSD, noted that it was nice to see “intergenerational women coming together for the same cause, and we appreciate the underwriting that allowed us to be here and meet so many leaders in our community.”

Federation board President Claire Ellman was thrilled with the turnout, observing that there were so many new people taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity for Jewish women to get together. “We are honored to have Pauline Foster and the Foster Family Foundation underwrite this event, and we are grateful for her vision of encouraging young people who haven’t attended in the past to take this opportunity to learn about the Federation and celebrate its work in the community.”

Laura Tauber, Pauline Foster, Jessica Effress, Leslie Fastlicht Russo, and Danielle Shulman, Lori Polin
Co-chaired by Jessica Effress, Leslie Fastlicht Russo, and Danielle Shulman, the evening featured remarkable stories on how the Federation’s financial and emotional contributions, both in Israel and San Diego, have helped two very different women overcome their challenges. Tzipi Zipper, a young Israeli woman who had served as a commander in a special combat unit in the Israeli Defense Force, was confined to a wheelchair following a car accident. She spoke of how she found new meaning in her life and a new career path after volunteering at the Center for Independent Living, an agency in Israel established by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and supported by the Federation. Local community member Alexandra Hirschhorn, originally from Mexico City, discussed her Federation involvement not only through her own contributions, but also through the services her family receives from the Friendship Circle, a Federation-supported group. With a daughter with cerebral palsy, Alexandra and her family relocated to San Diego to seek out support for her daughter’s physical health. What they discovered when they arrived was the crucial support for her daughter’s heart and soul that Federation helped to provide. 

Tzipi Zipper shares her story
The meaningful words of Tzipi, a stranger but also a friend, displayed Federation’s vital work in Israel to support people young and old, whatever they may need. Alexandra’s story showcased part of what makes Federation’s work so significant for local families: a family that receives what they themselves can not provide, but also gives back to the Federation so that others may benefit as they have.

The evening concluded with some personal words from special guest speaker Campbell Brown, both a journalist and a woman who has come to love and embrace the Jewish community as her own. Commenting that OPTIONS was the largest Federation group she had ever spoken to, Ms. Brown discussed her conversion process prior to her marriage to Dan Senor, author of Start-Up Nation. She described how concept of tikkun olam, healing the world, is what struck her in all her learning, observing that “nobody understands this [value] better than the people in this room.” Ms. Brown reinforced that philanthropy is a strength of the American Jewish community, and this strength, plus love, can be a power for good in our larger communities both near and far.

OPTIONS was not only a celebration of values such as tikkun olam but also an example of them. The evening’s attendees were asked to bring new children’s pajamas to be collected at the door that will be distributed to G’mach – Jewish Gift Closet, Jewish Family Services, and the children of Sha’ar Hanegev, San Diego’s partner city in Israel. The Social Action Committee of Women’s Philanthropy, chaired by Belinda Feldman and Samantha Cohen, organized the pajama drive.

“This is absolutely amazing,” remarked Andrea Oster, chair of the first OPTIONS event 20 years ago. “The evening has doubled in size due to the generosity of Pauline Foster and her family. We focused on targeting people under 40, and it worked. This is what we need to build our community.”

Yasher Koach to OPTIONS co-chairs Jessica Effress, Leslie Fastlicht Russo, and Danielle Shulman on a beautiful and meaningful evening. The Federation and all who were in attendance are also deeply grateful to Pauline Foster and the Foster Family Foundation for their vision of a thriving and active Jewish community of all ages, and their continued generosity in working towards that goal.

For more great pictures of the event, check out our Facebook: Step and Repeat, Options 2013