Lions share ideals and dreams at conference

PHOTOS: Four Portlanders attended this year's International Lion of Judah Conference including (at left) Portland Lions  Wendy Kahn (left) and Nicole Sacks and (below) Sharon Weil as well as Portland's Regional Security Director Jessica Anderson (below right), who was a conference presenter.

More than 1,200 mothers, daughters, grandmothers, nieces, long-time friends, new friends, activists, philanthropists and impact makers from across the United States, Mexico, Canada and Israel gathered for the International Lion of Judah Conference Dec. 11-13 in Phoenix to celebrate 50 years of Lion of Judah together.
They were brought together by shared personal values, core principles and philosophical ideals and were gathering in person for the first time since 2019.
“Women’s philanthropy is the fastest growing campaign in Jewish Federations,” says Jewish Federations of North America board chair Julie Platt. “Jewish Federations are dedicated to supporting and strengthening the role of women in their charitable decision-making, as they continue to inspire the next generation of philanthropic leadership.”
I was joined at the conference by Portlanders Sharon Weil, Nicole Sacks and Regional Security Director and conference presenter Jessica Anderson. Jessica was invited to speak because of her role in our community and because she’s the only Jewish woman serving as an SCN security director.
“It was an honor to be selected to represent Secure Community Network and Oregon/SW Washington at the conference,” says Jessica. “My presentation focused on how the word Hineni was so important to me in my work as Security Advisor and the rewards of continuing to serve in this capacity. It is through this work I am saying ‘Here I am’ to our community no matter what the ask is. It was also wonderful to be around the energy of 1,200 energized and creative women doing amazing things in their communities.”
Other speakers included Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin and award-winning journalist Katie Couric.
One pop-up gathering explored how the mental health of young adults is impacted by OneTable Shabbat dinners. OneTable is a national nonprofit that empowers 21- to 39ish-year-olds to find, share and enjoy Shabbat dinners using a social dining platform. Another pop-up addressed women’s health and reproductive health access. One gathering shared how our global Jewish community’s work through the JDC, JAFI, JFNA and other agencies has aided the people of Ukraine. Other gatherings included “Reimagining the Tent” about Jewish equity, diversity and inclusion; “A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue” – responding to antisemitism; and a Dignity Grows pack to provide free monthly hygiene itemsfor those in need.
Lions are women who make a philanthropic contribution to the Jewish Federation’s annual community campaign of $5,000 or more. This gift can be an individual contribution or made jointly with a partner (spouse).
Lions can be identified by their iconic gold Lion pins. But there’s so much more to Lions than the physical pin. There’s a woman behind each pin. A story. A generation of women on whose shoulders the Jewish community was built. Perhaps a pin was handed down from a grandmother to her granddaughter to inspire the next generation to begin her own Jewish philanthropic journey. Perhaps she didn’t have a seat at the board table, but she gathered a group of like-minded women to address the needs of her community.
Fifty years ago, Lions’ cofounder Norma Kipnis-Wilson, z”l, chose $5,000 to become a Lion because that was the cost of resettling a family from the Soviet Union. Today, $5,000 is still the entry point to become a Lion, and collectively, 18,000 women worldwide are proud Lions. In Portland, we are proud of the more than 90 Lions who inspire generations through their doing and giving.
Recipients of the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award, which honors extraordinary women who have set a high standard for philanthropy and volunteerism, were celebrated during a beautiful tallit ceremony. Sharon Weil accepted the award on behalf of her mother, honoree Elaine Savinar.
Our Portland contingent looks forward to sharing reflections and best practices from other Women’s philanthropy communities across the country and creating new stories for the women of Portland – for those wearing a Lion pin, those yet to wear a pin, and all women who want to engage, learn and make a difference in our fabulous Jewish community.
To learn more about the conference visit

Wendy Kahn is the Chief Development Officer and Director of Women’s Philanthropy for the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland. To learn about involvement with Women’s Philanthropy and the Lions of Judah in Portland, contact Wendy Kahn at



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