Girls Night Out: Sole to Soul reaches women, inspires philanthropy

Posted on: November 30th, 2017 by tgregory

From left, Patricia Straus, Laura Yazdian, Samantha Saturn, Jessie Rosenblum and Sara Hanai catch up at Sole to Soul. PHOTOGRAPH BY RICK MALKIN

Women of all ages and backgrounds, shoe size and hair color, turned out in fabulous fashion for last month’s Girls Night Out event to support the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee and to hear from philanthropist Jane Weitzman.

The event, held at the Gordon JCC on a weekday night, drew more than 200 women and brought together both familiar and new faces, all in support of the Jewish community here and around the world.

Nashville mom, attorney and engineer Erin Coleman had praise for the event. “It was so inspiring to be in a room full of powerful women from our community. … The most (striking) quality of this community is that we’re inclusive,” she said. “It was inspiring to see how we as women can shape future generations.”

Women gathered in a transformed Gordon JCC Board Room for cocktails and tapas before Jane Weitzman spoke about philanthropy at Sole to Sole. Diane Berry and her decorating team worked magic for the event. PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL ABRAMSON

Naomi Limor Sedek, the Jewish Federation’s assistant executive director, thanked the many volunteers who worked with event chair Stephanie Speller Townsend to make the night a success. “Everyone felt welcomed from the moment they walked in the door and engaged with the experience we worked so hard to create: the power of Jewish women and the impact of their philanthropy to serve Jewish needs both here in Nashville and around the world.”

Townsend spoke at the event, called Sole to Soul, about her own experiences growing up in Nashville, reconnecting with the Jewish Federation in Charlotte after a move there, and returning to contribute to her hometown and its Federation. “The Jewish Federation, in every city, invests in building Jewish Identity and that is what I have spoken about with you tonight.  But they are also the safety net for Jews in need in abject poverty, in crisis and in harm’s way in Nashville, Israel and in 70 countries around the world.  … Every gift … added to the collective pool makes huge differences in the lives of Jewish people every day as long as each of us is committed to making a personal meaningful gift that strengthens our community.”

Jane Weitzman, right, pauses after signing her book, “Art and Sole,” for Jennie Shepard-Zagnoev. PHOTOGRAPH BY RICK MALKIN

For guest speaker Jane Weitzman, who has taken a starring role in fashion and philanthropy, it was her first time in Nashville. She came with a strong Nashville connection, however, in her friendship with Etta Zimmerman, who introduced Weitzman to the audience.

Zimmerman and Weitzman became friends during a 2001 trip to Argentina. It was a time of financial crisis and political upheaval to the point of riots there. People were hurting.

“You know, this could be us,” Zimmerman recalled Weitzman saying to her. “These women are just like us. These families are just like us. They’ve lost everything.”

Jennifer Reiner, left, Kelly Unger and Lana Pargh helped put on the Sole to Soul event with fellow committee members. PHOTOGRAPH BY RICK MALKIN

In the course of their friendship, Zimmerman said, she has seen “the quiet little things Jane would take care of without anyone knowing.” She called Weitzman a lifelong mentor.

Weitzman’s message was that a person doesn’t have to have millions of dollars at their disposal to be a philanthropist and make a difference in the lives of others. Helping someone buy a working TV set, she said, doesn’t cost millions but can make an immeasurable difference. 

She called on Jews to continue to support Jewish causes. “We wouldn’t have made it to here without help,” she said. “…We are the only people who will ever help Jews.”

Weitzman shared photographs of Jews around the world – including in India, Estonia and other far-flung places – whose lives have been improved with help from other Jews. She called on parents to help their children find the Jewish values that motivate them so they can become Jewish philanthropists. “If we as Jewish women don’t take responsibility for our Jewish world, who will?” •

From left, Judy Lefkovitz, Nan Speller, Stephanie Speller Townsend, Carolyn Hecklin Hyatt and Amy Goldstein. PHOTOGRAPH BY RICK MALKIN