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Panim el Panim

A groundbreaking program that brought 10 Israeli female leaders to the Bay Area

Watch the video and see first-hand how the Panim el Panim program inspired and compelled women to take on leadership roles in their Jewish community.

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The inspiration for a reverse mission

A few years ago while on a JCF Israel Mission to Ethiopia and Israel, Women’s Philanthropy President, Judith Goldkrand, witnessed the last plane of Ethiopian Jews brought to their homeland. Goldkrand was so personally moved by her experience that she conceived a way for more people to undergo a similar life-changing opportunity. As a full-time working mother, Goldkrand knew first-hand how challenging it is to take time off from family and work responsibilities, so she thought, why not bring Israel to the Bay Area – a reverse mission? This would give Bay Area women the opportunity to engage and bond with Israeli women locally, and ultimately strengthen our community’s connection to Israel. During the mission, Goldkrand shared the idea of bringing Israeli women to the Bay Area for the purpose of relating and learning from one another with fellow travelers Gila Noam, Roberta Catalinotto and Liki Abrams. Panim el Panim was born out of the discussion that took place between these visionary women.

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Gaining a deeper understanding and stronger connection to today’s Israel

From January 26 through January 29, 2010, more than 500 women attended the weeklong regional programs that culminated in a Shabbat weekend retreat. The program was an opportunity to discover commonalities, cultivate friendships, and enrich and strengthen their connection. By providing the opportunity for friendships to form and collaborations to develop, we hope to deepen the interconnections of Jewish women leaders – creating a safety net for our communities while acting as change agents. Through Panim el Panim opportunities for engagement, participants gained a deeper understanding and stronger connection to today’s Israel. The program was jointly sponsored by Women’s Philanthropy, the Israel Center and the Israeli regional office of the Jewish Community Federation.

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Meet our visitors from Israel

Sigal Yaniv Feller was chosen as one of the 10 most influential people on the environment by The Marker magazine. She is a leader and significant player in the field of environmental funding in Israel. Feller holds a Masters in Environmental Science and serves as the Executive Director of Israel’s Green Environment Fund.

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Chen Abrahams is a resident of Kibbutz Sderot and lives minutes away from the Gaza border. She is the Resource Development Director of the Gvanim Association which is dedicated to providing services for disadvantaged populations in the Negev and all of Israel. When asked about her mission regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Abrahams replies, “To show you my life. To tell you of my son. To share we are both wrong and that together we can make it work… that’s why I do what I do.”

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Noga Brenner Samia, a former IDF sergeant raised partly on the American East Coast and partly on the Israeli West Coast, holds a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and Management, and an MBA in Non-Profit Marketing and Management. She lives in Israel with her husband and three children and serves as Director of External Relations and Development at BINA-Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture.

Noga Brenner Samia

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Dyonna Ginsburg was born into a Zionist family in Long Island. Raised by a Conservative Rabbi and a social worker, she made Aliyah to Israel seven years ago after completing her B.A. in Political Science at Columbia University. Ginsburg is the Executive Director of Bema’aglei Tzedek, a non-profit that utilizes Jewish texts and traditions to empower and educate future generations of Israel – cultivating positive leadership and social justice among Israeli youth.

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Vivian Silver made Aliyah to Israel from Canada in 1974 and served as Founder and Director of the Department for Gender Equality in the Kibbutz Movement, a member of the Knesset sub-committee for the Advancement of Women and the Economy, and a vice-chair of the Alliance for Middle-East Peace. Silver is now the Executive Director of NISPED, which among many things, focuses on transforming societies that discriminate against minorities to societies that extend full human, social, economic and civil rights to all.

Vivian Silver

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Yuvi Tashome was part of Operation Moses when she was just five years old, making the long journey to Israel from Ethiopia. She has since dedicated her life to education and social action in Israel, from her Education Corps service in the IDF, to her founding Friends by Nature (an Israeli NGO for Community Empowerment). Tashome is currently directing the Gari’n, which focuses on bridging the gap between immigrant communities and Israeli society.

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Chagit Rubinstein is the Program Director for The Koret Israel Economic Development Fund: Microenterprise Initiative. Rubinstein initiates and manages the various microfinance programs of this developing KIEDF initiative that includes intensive training, credit, and post-loan mentoring. Programs are targeted primarily for various disadvantaged populations including welfare-dependent women and Negev Bedouin.

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Noa Sattath was nominated ‘Woman of the Year’ by Channel 2 and Ynetnews, and voted to be one of the “Top 50 Influential Women” by The Marker magazine. Sattath has been a leader in Israel’s Gay and Lesbian community. She has served as volunteer, board member, chairperson, and Executive Director at the Jerusalem Open House for Pride and Tolerance (JOH), a community center for the city’s GLBT population. Noa is currently the Executive Director of MEET, an organization that uses technology to create a common language between Israeli and Palestinian young leaders.

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Einat Kapach is a screenwriter and director who represents a new generation of religious women artists, participating in a cultural revolution to bring women’s voices to the screen. She lives and creates in her native Jerusalem. A graduate of the Ma’aleh Film School with an M.A. from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem, Kapach lectures on film and Jewish identity in different communities in Israel and abroad (including the small Jewish communities in Montana, Idaho, and even Namibia and Zimbabwe).

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Sveta Severinsky, a native of Russia, settled in Israel and completed her B.A. in Psychology, Journalism and Communication, followed by a Masters in Public Health. She now serves as the Regional Program Manager for JDC’s programs in Moldova, Belarus, Southern and Northern Ukraine. Severinsky oversees JDC’s wide variety of programs, ranging from welfare support for those most in need to Jewish renewal as well as programs focusing on children and community development.

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A multifaceted name

Much meaning is carried in the name of this ground-breaking program. The name derives from Exodus 33:11 which says that G-d speaks to Moses panim el panim, face to face, making his experience with G-d personal and intimate, not mediated through visions or dreams. The image of close connectedness is carried further in the root of the words panim and biphnimpanim meaning ‘face’ and biphnim meaning ‘inside,’ signifying that the window to the soul is through the face. Panim is also the plural of the word pan meaning ‘facets,’ alluding to the multifaceted quality of human nature and behavior. How appropriate it is to recognize that when diverse women stand panim el panim (looking at each other’s faces), our combined energy harnesses the power to change the world.

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Women’s Philanthropy

Women’s Philanthropy (WP) is an empowered and socially conscious community of inter-generational women who are inspired and engaged through the Jewish traditions of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedakah (doing justice) while building community. The group’s social, educational, volunteer, and fundraising events provide women the opportunity to connect, develop leadership skills and financially support the Jewish community both here and abroad. For information on how you can get involved, contact Maxine at 415.512.6202 or maxinee@sfjcf.org.

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Israel Center

Since 1998, The Israel Center strives to connect and educate our Jewish community, instill a strong sense of Jewish identity and develop a lasting, supportive relationship with Israel. The Israel Center offers a wide variety of enriching cultural, educational, social and travel experiences.  For information on how you can get involved, contact Noa at 415.512.6296 or noat@sfjcf.org.

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To learn more about the program

One Comment Post a comment
  1. The photos and videos are wonderful – a great reminder of the incredible experience of Panim El Panim and the wonderful people involved (on both sides of the globe)!

    Yishar Koach!
    B’Ahava,
    Noga

    March 26, 2010

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