Chicago’s Jewish Women’s Foundation has a New Leader: So What Next?

The Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago has been making grants locally, nationally, and internationally since 1997 and has emerged as one of the largest Jewish Women’s Foundations in the country. To date, it has raised an endowment of over $8.6 million and awarded over $2.6 million to 134 projects.

Now it has a new leader, Ellen B. Carmell, who was recently named executive director. Which will mean what, exactly?  

Before stepping into this role, Carmell was in charge of the American Jewish Committee’s Bridging America Project, which was a national initiative funded by the Ford Foundation focused on Latino-Jewish relations and immigration reform. She’s also worked with Facing History and Ourselves, an international organization that uses lessons from the Holocaust to teach students about racism and prejudice. She holds a bachelor’s in art history and psychology and a Master’s in Museum Education.

So, by the looks of it, Carmell is a progressive who gets the importance of advocacy, but with an arts background as well. That's an interesting combination, and should mesh reasonably well with the work of the Jewish Women's Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, with its strong gender lens and its focus on empowering women in different ways, including economically. 

“She has a long commitment to a wide range of Jewish communal efforts, and a strong focus on advocacy to further social change and strengthen families and communities,” commented Gerri Kahnweiler, foundation board chair.

The vision behind JWF began with just a few Chicago women pooling their philanthropic resources and putting them towards the advancement of the Jewish community. Today, JWF has over 280 trustees that serve on committees, review grant proposals, conduct site visits, and vote on new grantees. The foundation is an independent program of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago. In December 2014, it announced nearly $350,000 in support for 21 unique projects.