Meet our Trustees
A Lifetime of Service:
Meet JWF Trustee Marianne Taussig
By Mary E. Thomas
Founding Multigenerational Trustee Marianne Taussig and her husband, Stuart, in 2011
Trustees like Marianne Taussig are the backbone of our Jewish Women's Foundation. As a founding trustee, she helped make JWF a possibility in Chicago. Her early involvement, along with a group of over one hundred founders, jump-started the Chicago Jewish women's philanthropy movement and established JWF's initial endowment, where we continue to thrive nearly twenty years later. Through her Multigenerational membership, Marianne shares JWF's vision of building a just world for Jewish women and girls with her four daughters, five granddaughters, and, she hopes, her future granddaughters-in-law.
Marianne's passion for philanthropy can be traced back to her childhood. Her philanthropic drive lies not with specific causes or campaigns, but with an endless quest for social justice and a strong belief in tikkun olam. She did not spend her Sundays in Hebrew school nor experience a bat mitzvah, but the value of her Jewish identity was of utmost importance in her Reform household in Detroit. As she grew up, she explored what it meant to be Jewish and internalized the importance of her community. "It means a lot to me to be able to do something positive in the world, and to do it with a Jewish lens," she remarks. Years later, after moving to Chicago to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago to earn a Master's in Social Work, she found her home within Chicago's Jewish philanthropic community through her involvement with the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) and eventually, the Jewish Women's Foundation.
Like many trustees, Marianne learned about JWF through her work in JUF's Women's Division. Following a conversation with Merle Cohen, Marianne joined JWF as a five year trustee in April of 1997. "For me, it felt like an appropriate transition after many years of being involved with the Women's Division. I was really thrilled to be one of the Founders," she recalls, "The mission really just spoke to me." A few years later, she renewed her membership for another five years before assuming a Lifetime membership in celebration of JWF's 10th Anniversary. Then, on her 65th birthday, her husband, Stuart, presented Marianne with the gift of a Multigenerational Membership. This perpetual gift brought her daughters, granddaughters, and her future granddaughters-in-law to JWF's grantmaking table. "It just made me so proud," Marianne says, "It was just such a meaningful, wonderful thing."
In the early years, Marianne helped craft JWF's very first mission statement, the 39-word testament to our resolve to make the world a better place for Jewish women and girls—a statement that has changed only by one word since its adoption in 1997. Despite the largely unchanged nature of JWF's mission, one of Marianne's most beloved things about being a trustee is witnessing the foundation's evolution. She lauds JWF for consistently recognizing potential pitfalls and adapting rules and expectations to sidestep them. For example, a number of years ago, the guidelines for Israeli grants were altered to select programs with a national or regional area of impact rather than a local one, allowing JWF to fund programs working to make a greater contribution to large-scale systemic change. "It's been a wonderful evolution," she says, "And our dollars are more impactful as a result." Additionally, she believes the effort in recent years to increase the quality and quantity of Chicago-area grants is vital because local funding is critical to the foundation's success. "I really have faith that the trajectory we are on will make us stronger, more strategic, and more impactful with time," Marianne says.
Marianne has great respect for the grants process and looks forward to participating every year. "I think the thread throughout is the democracy of everyone's voice being heard, the fact that people feel safe voicing their opinion," she says, "The environment is such that people feel comfortable to say what they think. The whole subcommittee process is very democratic, and it's a joy to see how seriously people take it. People really do their homework!" Over the years, Marianne has served on various JWF committees. Early on, she participated in the Girls & Special Target Population Committee and later joined the Leadership and Development Committee (LRDC) and became its Chair in 2006, thus beginning her involvement with the Steering Committee. Currently, Marianne serves on the JWF Grants Committee and has the unique opportunity of sharing the grantmaking table at the Economic Subcommittee meetings with her daughter, Elaine. "It has been a wonderful, joyful experience. I get a kick out of it!" she says, adding, "I admire the depth of her questions. It's just a joy to share it with an adult daughter." Someday, Marianne hopes to welcome her granddaughters to the table as well. "The thrill of being a multigenerational member is really the most meaningful to me," she says.
Outside of the Chicago Jewish Federation and JWF, Marianne dedicates her time to many social change organizations including the Response Center (a past JWF grantee), National Council for Jewish Women (NCJW) (a current JWF grantee), and American Jewish Committee (AJC). Since she spends her winters in Tucson, Arizona, she dedicates some of her time to the Tucson Federation, working in their Women's Division. "We feel that because we spend half a year here that we have a responsibility here too," she says. Beyond her volunteer service, Marianne enjoys working out, watching movies, and traveling. She is part of a book club and takes pride in bringing a Jewish lens to the conversation. "I believe it's very interesting to be able to read books with a Jewish lens," she remarks, "I find value in bringing the Jewish lens to all areas of my life."
Throughout her many years of service and dedication to JWF, Marianne's passion for the Jewish community is apparent. "It is more concrete now than when I was younger," she says, "But it's important to me—my Jewish identity is important." JWF appreciates Marianne's passion for social justice and service to the Jewish community. It is a privilege to continue sharing our vision and evolving alongside Marianne, her daughters and granddaughters, and all of her family's generations of Jewish women philanthropists—for many years to come.