Do Jewish women enjoy sharing a meal while contributing to worldwide social justice? Of course — and the Tucson chapter of the national organization, Dining for Women, does just that. Dory Martin, a local psychotherapist, started the chapter two years ago after learning of her sister’s involvement in Virginia. The Tucson chapter now has 34 members, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Martin knew only 12 of them when she started the group. “We’ve grown by word of mouth,” she says.
Each month, members of the nonprofit giving circle gather at one of their homes for a potluck supper. They also watch a short DVD about the national Dining for Women’s chosen monthly project in a developing country. “What money would have been spent on a dinner at a restaurant goes to the project” through donations from attendees, says Martin.
The August project was Nurturing Minds in Tanzania, a nonprofit that provides financial and technical support to programs improving access to quality education for girls, with a particular emphasis on girls who are poor, marginalized or at risk of becoming involved in exploitative forms of child labor. This month’s donations from the Tucson chapter, and from more than 160 chapters around the United States, contributed to the construction of additional classrooms at the SEGA Girls’ School (Secondary Education for Girls’ Advancement) in Tanzania.
“By watching the DVD we get to see the face and reality of where our money is going,” Bonnie Kohn told the AJP. Another member, Cathleen Becskehazy, says that participating in the group “keeps my juices going. I’m very dedicated to social justice.”
For Martin, the goals of Dining for Women are parallel to those of Judaism, in which “the highest form of charity is to give a gift, a loan, or partnership that will result in the recipient supporting herself instead of depending upon others.”
Besides, says Martin, “it’s healthy for women to get together. It promotes oxytocin production!” (Oxytocin is the feel-good hormone that promotes bonding.)
“Meeting new people, getting together with women who are on the same page, who are interested in doing something for women in developing countries,” is also important to Becskehazy, a member of Congregation Or Chadash and a participant in the local Secular Humanist Jewish Circle.
Another plus is that the national Dining for Women vets all applications from potential nonprofits seeking grants, so that local members can feel confident about making contributions. And, Martin proudly says, the Tucson chapter this year has raised $3,420. “We’re the 9th largest donating chapter.”