Lion of Judah: Women’s Philanthropy in the Federation System


If you are not an insider in the formal world of Jewish philanthropy, you may not be familiar with the Lion of Judah pin. Boy, are you ever missing out. And you thought there was no such thing as philanthropy pop culture. Well, I am here to prove otherwise.

I haven’t found a good representation of the pin online, so I’ll describe it to you in hopes you can picture it. In truth, I’ve only seen the pins on a number of occasions when top level federation donors are congregated for seminars or tours in Israel.

I first noticed the pin at such an event recently and was taken aback at its size and statement. Then I noticed that everyone in the room was wearing one and made it my mission to find out what it was. Allow me to fill you in so you too can be in the know on this little pop culture tidbit.


The Lion of Judah pin was created in 1972 during a fundraising drive by the Miami Women’s Campaign as a “symbol of commitment to the worldwide Jewish community.”

The pin was nationalized in 1980 with a campaign logo created in 1983. Gemstones are added to denote levels of giving, with more variations added over time as the pin’s popularity and women’s generosity grew.

Levels of Giving to the Annual Campaign: What the Gemstones Symbolize

  • Gold pin: $5,000 annual commitment (base)
  • Ruby: $10,000 annual commitment
  • Sapphire: $18,000 annual commitment
  • Emerald: $25,000 annual commitment
  • Canary diamond: $50,000 (added in 1992 to mark the pin’s 20th anniversary). The canary diamond inset marks the Zahav level.
  • Gold flame: endowment gift of $100,000+. Called the Or L’Atid (Light Unto the Future), it is “is a symbol of the eternal responsiveness of Jewish women”

There are 12,000 Lions of Judah in the United States, 900 in Canada, and 13,000 worldwide.

What it Really Means to be in the “Sisterhood”

Think it’s all about money and a little flash? This is no fools gold. Take a look at this video entitled “Sisters by Choice,” a best practice model from the Washington D.C. Federation. (Psst, look for their pins in the video.)

I admit that I’m a sap, but this video is a great example of harnessing the power of donor emotions with a powerful message for an important purpose. Watch the video and you’ll be thinking two thoughts, neither having to do with money:

  • How do I become a part of that?
  • What can I give to make a meaningful contribution?

Kapow! They got you.

I too want to give a chicken to a Cuban woman each Shabbat.

In the eloquent words of the Federation:

“Being a Lion of Judah, and wearing a Lion of Judah pin, gives us a very special way to connect with the greater Jewish community. You proudly show you recognize the meaning of tzedakah. Together, through caring and passion, women who wear the Lion of Judah pin are able to transform the concept of Tikum Olam from an abstract dream to a concrete reality.”

A side note to foundation executives and campaign managers:

Maybe it is because I grew up when the internet was young and I don’t feel proprietary toward information or media on the web, but this is such a great video, don’t you want to use an embed code so that as many people as possible can see it? I don’t know the politics of it and I’m sure that the federation who funded it wants ownership rights, but this is a video that would benefit the whole giving community if it had a wider audience.

I just had a conversation the other day at my own organization. We are producing a series of interviews with hot shot politicos, academics, and other leaders in the Jewish world that are available for free on our website. I strongly believe that all videos that will benefit the community and can be used for good should attempt to gain a wider audience. I’m sure there could be technicalities used to prevent copyright infringement or site hacking.

The bottom line: a really good promotional film takes time, energy, and a significant investment to produce. If your organization has such a thing, be proud of it and allow promotion to maximize your brand. Include your logo, site links, etc, but let people use it to push your mission forward! A great video can be one of the pillars of cause marketing and can do your work for you. You made the investment, now let others help you with its promotion.

See my entry on Cause-Based Viral Marketing: How Your Nonprofit Can Maximize Social Networking Tools.

For more information about the Lion of Judah movement, read Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand’s story about her first encounter and what the symbol came to mean to her.


11 Responses to Lion of Judah: Women’s Philanthropy in the Federation System

  1. […] partners in the global agenda,” 5,000 people attended last year’s General Assembly; 16,000 women are Lions of Judah, making a minimum $5,000 annual […]

  2. Lisa Kleinman says:

    FYI, the Sisters by Choice video was created by UJC, the umbrella organization of the federations. It is used by all the federations. Another powerful UJC women’s philanthropy video is called The Power of a Woman’s Gift, and we’re about to launch a third, as yet unnamed, at the upcoming Lion of Judah conference in Israel in November. I’m glad you were moved by the video.

  3. This post is really the most informative on this notable topic. I concur with your conclusions and will certainly look forward to your future updates. Saying thanks will not just be enough, for the phenomenal clarity in your writing. I will be sure to grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. Delightful work and much success in your business enterprise!

    • Maya Norton says:

      Thanks so much, Jadwiga. I really appreciate your kind words.

      I’ve actually just stopped blogging this month after two years of it (life got too busy!), but will take your encouragement with me into my next venture, whatever it may me.

      All the best,

      ~ Maya

  4. Lol, this is one of my favorite blogs. Keep up the good work 🙂

  5. Saying thanks will not just be enough, for the phenomenal clarity in your writing. I will be sure to grab your rss feed to stay privy of any updates. Delightful work and much success in your business enterprise!

  6. If you need more information on power pin missing please visit power pin missing website (it also has Lion of Judah: Womens Philanthropy in the Federation System … section) or contact me at I had my laptop fixed there last Monday. Good service and affordable prices. Hope this helps. Mike.

  7. Benji Lovitt says:

    I needed to research this for an event and look whose blog I discovered. Thanks, Maya!

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