Jewish Cincinnati Women Rise Up to Do Good in Community

June 21, 2023

Uniting to Help Those Suffering from Hunger, Domestic Violence

The women of Women’s Philanthropy, part of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, have had a busy November. They planned and spearheaded not one, but two mitzvot (good deeds), or in this case, socially minded philanthropic events—the Thanksgiving Mitzvah and the MakeAHome Mitzvah—just days apart.

Making Thanksgiving Dreams Come True for the Hungry

On Sunday, November 3, Women’s Philanthropy came together to donate and package 180 kosher and non-kosher Thanksgiving meals for clients of Jewish Family Service Heldman Family Food Pantry, located at Jewish Family Service Barbash Family Vital Support Center.

This is the seventh year in a row that Women’s Philanthropy has packaged these meals, “and the event keeps growing,” said Jennifer Zelkind, Director of Women’s Philanthropy. “This year we had to add a second session. We had such an incredible outpouring of people who wanted to help.”

Feeding people is a deeply rooted Jewish value, and the need is great in Cincinnati. Last year alone, the food pantry served more than 150 households.

The volunteers arrived at 10 a.m. and immediately got to work, elbow to elbow, laughing and joking while they assembled bags containing turkey or chicken provided by the food pantry, as well as green beans, corn, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin, and desserts. Thoughtfully, the plum-colored reusable bags also included a turkey roasting pan and festive holiday napkins.

“These events are volunteer-driven,” said Zelkind. “We couldn’t do this great work without all hands on deck, especially the Women’s Philanthropy planning committee—Vallie Freeman, Rachel Loftspring, Patti Heldman, and Alison Caller.”

Creating Homes for Women Recovering from Domestic Violence

Only two days later, on November 5, twenty energetic women reconvened for the MakeAHome Mitzvah, determined to make empty apartments into homes for women recovering from domestic violence.

Wearing colorful bandanas and seemingly unbothered by the rainy conditions, they quickly got to work transforming four apartments in a large, multi-family home, adding both necessities and caring touches to every room.

The property in Roselawn was donated to Talbert House to be used as permanent supportive housing for women with a history of domestic violence and trauma, intended to give hope to women who want to feel safe and live independently.

“Everyone was in good spirits despite the rain,” Zelkind said. “This is a moment where we got to live our Jewish values.”

The Women’s Philanthropy group collected and donated everything needed to furnish the house, accepting gifts from more than forty individuals, while the property itself was purchased by four Cincinnati families: Phil and Lois Cohen, Roberta and John Michelman, Karen Meyer and Rick Michelman, and Steve and Julie Shifman.

The home has been named “Freeda Kay III” in honor of the strong women who inspired it.

“My husband and I were raised by two phenomenal women, and we wanted to give a tribute to them,” said Lois Cohen as she described her own mother, Freeda, and her husband Phil’s mother, Kay. “And so it became the Freeda Kay house.”

In fact, this location is the third Freeda Kay home in Cincinnati.

“The Jewish Federation stepped in to help create these apartments, to do what we could as women and as people who care about our neighbors, to create a place for them. And we’ll be waiting in the wings for when we need to do another one,” said Felicia Zakem, event chair.

There is no doubt these women are up to the challenge.

Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.

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