By Elizabeth Schuman
If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.
– Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
One rainy fall afternoon, some 20 women gathered at the home of current Associated Women President Rina Janet. Former presidents and/or campaign chairs, their shared connection inspired a lively conversation about history, experiences and accomplishments under their tenures and beyond.
Though the guests covered the decades between the 1970s and today, all agreed on one compelling takeaway, voiced by Genine Fidler, 1998 Women’s Campaign Chair: “We’ve built a power base to ensure the survival and strength of the Associated and our community. The support and power of Associated Women gives women the ability to achieve the highest possible positions in our community.”
As Associated Women celebrates its 70th Anniversary, it’s no stretch to say that the story of Associated Women mirrors the journey of women in 20th century America to today. It’s a journey that reflects what women have always done – volunteer their time and money to help others, from family and friends to people they would never meet. It’s a journey that reflects women’s changing roles – from working in the home to holding leadership positions in business and on nonprofit and corporate boards.
The women’s journey began even before the Associated Jewish Charities (precursor to today’s Associated) 1920 founding. Baltimore’s Jewish women were helping organizations such as the Hebrew Ladies Sewing Circle and Hebrew Ladies Orphans Aid Society. When the Women’s Division of Associated Jewish Charities was founded officially in 1945, just after World War II ended, the move represented the first step to a formal woman’s role within the organization and Jewish Baltimore.
Much has happened in 70 years.
Fortunately, a record of the early history of Associated Women is documented in two carefully-written booklets, chronicling the path from the original Women’s Division to the renamed Women’s Department in 1995. In the nearly 20 years since, there have been more transformational changes – in goals, accomplishments and today’s name: Associated Women.
A new history volume is underway, slated to premiere at the Women’s Annual Meeting in June 2015. The project, chaired by Annette Cooper, Associated Women President 1999-2001 and 1993 Campaign Chair, will pay homage to the early years and focus on what’s happened since 1995. We’ve begun talking with many of the women who were seated around Rina’s table and many others who held leadership roles of every stripe. Already, some themes have emerged:
Many women were inspired by their mothers and other family. Almost to a person, the women talk about the next generation and their hopes of inspiring their daughters, sons and grandchildren.
Community remains a constant. From providing services for those in need to creating outreach efforts to connect women to The Associated, these leaders have never forgotten the importance of Klal Yisroel, the link between Jewish people in Baltimore, Israel and around the world.
Programs such as CHANA and the Jewish Women’s Giving Foundation were born of vision and hard work, prime examples of how the women behind Associated Women have never been about the status quo and have always been about recognizing problems and creating solutions.
Collectively, the women gathered around Rina’s table that fall afternoon represented decades of experience, commitment and knowledge. As they continued to talk and share, Rina reminded us all:
“We planted seeds for the next generation,” said Rina. “Today, let’s ask: ‘Seventy years from now, what are our aspirations for our daughters?”
Our history continues to be written.
Learn more at associated.org/women