Jackie Levine, a True MetroWest Hero

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a member of the National Women’s Philanthropy Board (NWP), the affinity group for the women of federations across North America. We provide best practices, training, and campaign education for the women's constituencies of the 157 federations and over 400 network communities that make up the federation movement.

Jackie Levine
Jackie Levine
Every other year, NWP sponsors the International Lion of Judah Conference (ILOJC), which brings together not only the Lions of Judah from North America, but from around the world and Israel. As part of the conference, NWP sponsors the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Awards, named in honor of Norma Kipnis-Wilson and Toby Friedland (z”l), who founded the Lion of Judah 38 years ago in Miami. Communities select an award honoree who is recognized both in her home community and at the ILOJC. I want to share the story of our MetroWest honoree, Jacqueline K. Levine.


But first I have a question.


Did you ever care about anything enough to get arrested? Twice?


That’s what our 2010 Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland award winner, Jackie Levine, did. How did dignified, articulate, elegant Jackie Levine — a Bryn Mawr graduate, I might add — come to be a jailbird? It is part of an inspiring story of commitment, belief, and determination.


Jackie was raised by her parents to see Judaism as the lens through which she could be engaged in the major issues of social justice. Supported by her wonderful husband Howard, who urged her to go out and make a difference, she’s been at it for 60 years, with no signs of slowing down.


Jackie Levine was a suburban wife and mother when she went to Montgomery, Alabama, to march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


She took her daughter Ellen, then in kindergarten, with her to picket Woolworth’s lunch counters that wouldn’t serve African-Americans.


Her first arrest came in 1964 when she picketed a virulently anti-Semitic mural at the Jordanian pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. Far from being daunted by that experience, she was again arrested in 1985 when she attempted to deliver a letter concerning the plight of Soviet Jews to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C.


For over 60 years, Jackie has spoken truth to power, whether protesting against Senator Joe McCarthy, seeking equality for fellow Americans, demanding a seat at the table for other Jewish women, or freedom for Soviet Jews.


Jackie’s intelligence and leadership have placed her at the pinnacle of several major Jewish institutions. She was the first woman to serve as the National Chair of the American Jewish Congress’ Governing Council. She has been honored many times by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs for her outstanding work in the fields of civil rights, protection of the First Amendment, Soviet Jewry, and support for the State of Israel. She is a founding member of MAZON and the Jewish Funds for Justice. She has served on the national boards of HIAS, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and National Women’s Philanthropy, and was president of the Women’s Division of the Council of Jewish Federations, NWP’s predecessor, for three years. Not surprisingly, Jackie is a recipient of many awards and honors.


I have been privileged to work alongside Jackie as a member of the UJC MetroWest Executive Committee and the Unified Allocations Council. To see first hand her grasp of the big picture as well as the nuances of individual matters that come before both of those bodies has been inspirational and aspirational.


The criteria for the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award read as if designed specifically for Jackie.


She has been a Lion of Judah for 20 years and has created a Lion of Judah Endowment, which means that her gift will continue to benefit this community for years to come.


As I described to you earlier, she certainly has exhibited leadership, creativity, and inspiration in every facet of federation life. And Jackie has made a significant impact in the MetroWest Jewish community, in Israel, AND around the world.


She has given other Jewish women encouragement, motivation, and opportunity to take a leadership role in philanthropy and community involvement. Jackie was an important mentor to my own mother, who doesn’t even live in MetroWest!


Most importantly, Jackie embodies the spirit and vision of the Lion of Judah through her commitment to teaching the values of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). I am proud to count her as a friend, role model, and inspiration.


Have an inspiring week!



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