Proud to Be a Lion

I just returned from the thrill of a (Jewish volunteer) lifetime — chairing the International Lion of Judah Conference in New Orleans last week. Eighteen months of planning, hoping, and dreaming came to fruition when I watched 1,100 women come bursting into the ballroom at the Riverside Hilton. I had been feeling lots of nervous excitement at the thought of getting up in front of this very dynamic, thoughtful, and opinionated group of women, but I realized I didn’t need to be nervous at all. I was looking at 1,100 of my new best friends. How did I know this? Because I knew I was looking at women with whom I share a very deep connection, even if I had never met most of them before. (I do feel like I’ve met a lot of them now — it’s a very friendly group!)

 

The women I was watching, the women for whom we had planned this conference, are committed to the future of the Jewish people. They care deeply about Israel, about caring for those in need, and about providing a strong foundation in Jewish life for our children. After all, that’s what the federation movement does with our dollars and shekels and euros (there were 19 Israeli Lions and women from 10 different countries around the globe.) How did I know this? Because I know that these are women who have committed a good portion of their philanthropic dollars to their federation’s annual UJA campaign.

 

Lion of JudahIn order to be a Lion of Judah, a woman must make a gift of $5,000 in her own name to her federation's annual UJA campaign. I know there are people out there who don't understand "the pin" or why women take such pride in, well, being a member of the pride. (Feel free to groan, but I couldn't resist the pun!) I'm proud to be a Lion because the women I know who are Lions inspire me to make my best possible gift to the campaign. I'm proud to be associated with women who are so committed to using their philanthropy to make a Jewish difference.

 

And so it's really about the women behind the pin, not the actual piece of jewelry. It's about each of us making our best possible gift in order to perpetuate the ideals that our dollars make into reality. And, in the end, it's not necessarily about being a Lion of Judah. To quote one of our MetroWest community role models, Lois Lautenberg, if I make my best gift and you make your best gift, our gifts are the same, no matter the actual dollar amount. I am inspired by women who are Lions and by women who are lion-hearted.

 

I cared about Jews in need and ensuring a Jewish future long before I ever became a Lion of Judah, and will always care about those things, whether or not I can always maintain a Lion of Judah gift. Many, many of the dedicated donors to the Women's Philanthropy Campaign are not Lions but are making their best possible gifts. I consider them as much my sisters in philanthropy as those 1,100 women who came through the doors of the Riverside Hilton ballroom last Monday night.

 

We're about a month away from Super Sunday. You don’t have to wait to be called: make YOUR best gift to the 2011 Annual UJA Campaign today!

 

Leslie

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