In 2015, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation set out to make philanthropy more accessible—and more fun. Enter the Pearl Society, and its annual Women of Intention Event, taking place this year on May 4 at the JW Marriott Mall of America.
“We wanted giving to Federation to feel more like a movement,” says Debbie Lieberman, Federation’s Director of Women’s Philanthropy, “and at the time, the only way to be ‘part of something’ was to become a Lion of Judah by giving $5,000.”
Federation introduced the Pearl Society, a group of women who give $365 or more per year to the Federation Community Campaign.
“For many people, giving one dollar a day is a stretch,” said Lieberman. “We recognize that, and believe that these women deserve to be celebrated, too.”
Celebration is at the heart of the Women of Intention event, where six women — including keynote speaker Jennifer Weiner — will be honored with awards.
“We are so proud to honor these hard-working, committed women,” said Lieberman. “Each brings her unique grit and gifts to the community and we hope sharing their stories will inspire others.”
Trailblazer: Beth Kieffer Leonard
Leonard is being honored for her role in business and work within the Jewish community.
“I was very honored to have been chosen,” said Leonard, a CPA, and partner at Lurie LLC. “I’ve been fortunate enough to work in a profession and community that believes in giving back.”.”
Leonard sees her work in the community as vital for its future.
“For me, it’s an opportunity to have a future for children and grandchildren that includes a rich Jewish life,” she said. “”
Flame-keeper Award: Linda Fiterman
Linda Fiterman has long seen the importance of philanthropy, and it’s something she’s worked to instill in her children and grandchildren.
“I’ve seen all three of my kids go on boards,” said Fiterman, who along with her husband, Mike, have been long-time supporters of the Jewish and secular communities in the Twin Cities. Fiterman was inspired by her parents’ involvement in organizations such as Federation and the Sabes JCC, and followed suit.
In addition to supporting many causes, she is also the administrator of the Fiterman Family Foundation, a role she considers a great blessing.
Woman of Promise: Jacy Grais
Jacy Grais said that while she’s honored to receive this award, it brings responsibility as well.
“It’s a recognition of the responsibility put on my generation about taking care of Jews in the community and around the world,” she said.
Grais said that she first understood the importance of Federation while in Ukraine on a Harry Kay trip.
“I wish everyone could take that same trip,” she said. “It was so impactful to see where dollars go and what it can do and how crucial it is to save lives. It’s given me so much personal satisfaction. There’s something selfish in that regard. But it’s an obligation and a privilege and an opportunity.”‘
Voice of Inspiration: Julie Burton
When Julie Burton received a call from the Pearl Society, she thought it was a reminder to register for the event. Instead, she learned she was the 2017 Voice of Inspiration.
‘”I was so surprised and so humbled and honored,” she said. “I was shocked.”
Burton’s connection with Jewish philanthropy goes back to when she’d watch her parents raise money for Jewish causes in St. Paul.
“Charity was a huge part of their values. That had an impact on me and as early as I could, I started volunteering,” she said. “I’ve always known it was important to me to give. I’ve gained a lot from the community, whether it was USY, Herzl Camp or synagogues.”
Burton wrote about living an intentional life in her book, The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being, published last year.
“There are some references to Judaism and the importance of my Judaism in how I live intentionally,” she said. ” I feel like I have, as I’m sharing the messages of living with intention and honoring Judaism, I have become more-alive in my own life. It’s a blessing for me to do this work and I’m so grateful that the community has been so warm, loving and engaging.”
Community Champion Award: Karen Rubin
While honored that she is this year’s Community Champion, Karen Rubin would prefer that no one notices what she does.
“I just do my thing,” she said. “I don’t like people to notice what I’m up to’, but it’s nice that they thought of me.” Rubin is an active volunteer in both the Jewish and secular communities and loves having volunteering as an outlet.
“I like doing stuff,” she said. “I used to play Maj and it bored me to tears. I have to be doing good stuff for people. That’s what I need to do. I was blessed with a husband who allowed me to have that flexibility and kids that put up with me. I just have always felt that it was important for me personally to be giving to other people. What more can you ask for from life?”
Join the Pearl Society and purchase tickets to the event from Federation’s website.