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Women’s Philanthropy Spotlight: Abra Annes Sills

This is the second post in a series highlighting women who are doing great work in our local Jewish community.

Abra Annes Sills is a vibrant and passionately dedicated Jewish community leader. We are fortunate to welcome Abra as the incoming Women’s Philanthropy Campaign Chair. She is currently a member of the National Young Leadership Cabinet, and a new Lion of Judah.

Women’s Philanthropy: What motivates you to be involved in the local Jewish community?

Abra Annes Sills: I go about my daily life, doing normal working mom things. I go to meetings, send emails, get my daughter to school, grocery shop, run errands; I’m sure your life is quite similar. Most days I don’t stop to think about people outside my circle of family of friends, certainly not people I’ve never met. However, the Federation DOES. The Federation’s entire job is to think about and remember these people for me. Through my donation, which takes 5 minutes of one day, out of 365 days, I feel good for the rest of the year. When I receive a distressing update about the situation in Israel where 45 rockets have been fired overnight, I take comfort in knowing that a portion of my gift to the Federation goes toward funding a trauma center and bomb shelters in these hard hit areas. I know that Israeli families like mine are being taken care of, because of my one decision each year.

WP: What do you gain personally from giving back?

Abra: Everything! I will forever be grateful to the Federation for giving me EVERYTHING and I mean everything in my life. My first job, my 4 best friends, my husband, a tight network of people in a new place, an opportunity to travel to Cuba, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Israel, and the opportunity to be part of something greater.

WP: Would you care to share a challenge you have overcome that has changed or inspired you?

Abra: There was period of time in my life where I didn’t want to be Jewish and was ashamed and embarrassed by who I was. I dismissed my heritage and upbringing for many years before going to work on a cruise ship. Onboard, I was the only Jewish crew member. For a few months it was fine, but then September rolled around. I asked the Cruise Director (responsible for all onboard activities) if there was anything happening for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the answer was ‘no.’ However, he gave me permission to do whatever “Jew stuff” I wanted. It was then that it was up to me. If anything Jewish was going to happen onboard that ship, I was going to make it happen. It started small, with a small gathering on Rosh Hashanah of Jewish passengers and myself saying the prayers over apples and honey, candles and round challah (the recipe for which I had to print out and draw pictures for the pastry chef to bake onboard) to a huge 500 person multi-day Chanukah celebration. I learned that not only did I want Judaism in my life, but I needed the community that came with it. When I returned to dry land, I channeled this energy and passion into the Federation. My first gift of $250 in 2007 was the best investment I ever made. 7 years later, I am a member of National Young Leadership Cabinet, Women’s Philanthropy Campaign Chair, and a Lion of Judah.

Women’s Philanthropy empowers women and ignites their passion for meaningful giving, service and leadership within the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund to secure the vibrancy and well-being of the Jewish Community.

For more information on Women’s Philanthropy, like us on Facebook or contact Robyn Carmel at 415.512.6271.

Support Our Family in Israel

As hundreds of rockets continue to rain down on Israel and target Israelis where they live and work, the nation remains at a frightening standstill: Read more

Fifteen Jewish Teens Receive $36,000 Each for Exceptional Tikkun Olam Leadership

The Helen Diller Family Foundation is proud to announce the recipients of the 2014 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards. Fifteen young leaders in community service will each receive $36,000 in recognition of their outstanding leadership, innovation, and commitment to making the world a better place. Now in its eighth year, the program has granted almost $2 million to further the philanthropic visions and education of 55 Jewish teens who exemplify the spirit of tikkun olam. Read more


By Merav Barr Grindlinger, Marketing Associate of the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund

A new Federation grantee harnesses technology for a shared Israeli society

Start-up Nation. It’s become a household term in our community, thanks to authors Dan Senor and Saul Singer, whose book examines the phenomenon of a tiny country, burdened with political conflict and bereft of natural resources, that has an outsize impact on the global economy through the hi-tech market. Israel has earned its title and now, with a strong record of success, is poised to expand its economic and technological know-how to all of its citizens, with a special focus on Arab-Israelis. Read more

Announcing a $1.75 Million Grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation to Expand Jewish Education for Preschools in the Bay Area

Today, the Federation announced that its Early Childhood Education Initiative (ECEI) will receive a $1.75 million grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation for the Federation’s Jewish Resource Specialist Program (JRS), a program designed to deepen Jewish curricula at local schools, engage parents, and encourage families to choose Jewish education for themselves and their children. The 3-year pilot program, launched in 2011 at five Jewish Early Childhood Education (ECE) sites in the Bay Area, has had significant success in engaging families in Jewish life during and after the preschool years. Thanks to the new grant, the Federation will expand the JRS program from 5 to 15 Jewish ECE sites in the Bay Area, broadening this hands-on Jewish learning program to include hundreds of local children. Read more

Thoughts from an Israel IGI Participant

By Mikhal Bouganim, a participant on the Federation’s May trip to Israel to explore grantees for the Israel Impact Grants Initiative program.

This wasn’t going to be a Federation story. In fact, I now admit with some embarrassment, JCF was merely the vehicle to get me to Israel. Here’s the context:

Israel is where my formative childhood years were spent, the place that kindled my love of history, longing for social justice and ability to grasp complexity. Where I first felt part of something bigger and understood the notion of peoplehood. Where I fell in love, more than once.
Read more

The LGBTQ Pathways Program: Leadership through Diversity

By Tyler Gregory, member of the Federation’s first cohort of LGBT Jewish leaders in its Pathways to Jewish Leadership program

I’ve renewed my appreciation for a tired old joke that’s made its way through the Jewish community – “What happens when you put two Jews in a room?” “You get three opinions.” Working for AIPAC, where bipartisanship is sacrosanct, I know the joke can be all too real. Yet the LGBTQ Pathways to Leadership program took the joke to a whole new level.
Read more

Our Office in Israel

Staff pictured in photo from left to right: Alon More, Hila Yallon, Merav Grindlinger, Tamar Alperovitch, Barak Loozon, Tami Stern

The Federation’s office in Israel enables, encourages and strengthens the connection between the Jewish communities in Israel and the Bay Area.

Our Federation has truly been a trailblazer in Israel, being the first to establish a permanent office there more than two decades ago, and recently forming a partnership of peers with Israel’s first community foundation – Takdim, The Ramat Hasharon Community Foundation. Today, we continue our commitment to our homeland by working to strengthen Israel as a pluralistic, democratic and just society with equality of opportunity for all its citizens.
Read more

Announcing the Winners of the Haas/Koshland Memorial Award for 2014

Yesterday, the Federation announced the winner of the Annual Haas/Koshland Memorial Award, which provides to an outstanding college student – from or attending school in the Bay Area – up to $20,000 to support a year of study and personal development in Israel. This year’s exemplary winner is Hana Rothstein, a junior at U.C. Santa Cruz majoring in the History of Art and Visual Culture and minoring in Jewish Studies. Read more

Recruiting now for Federation Fellows – bringing new leaders to the Jewish community

Become a leader of the Jewish community

Leadership in the Jewish community doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires dedication to training and education. And the Federation’s not-so-secret incubator of rising leaders is the Federation Fellows program, which is now recruiting for its second cohort. Read more


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