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Ellen B. Carmell takes the lead at Jewish Women's Foundation

Prior to joining the women’s foundation, Carmell headed the American Jewish Committee’s Bridging America Project

Ellen B. Carmell image
Ellen B. Carmell

Ellen B. Carmell has been named Executive Director of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, one of the largest and oldest philanthropic bodies of its kind.

The foundation is an independent program of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago.

“Ellen is a wonderful match for JWF, which has grown into one of the preeminent Jewish women’s foundations in the country,” said foundation board chair Gerri Kahnweiler. “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. She is a recognized leader, both locally and nationally, and is skilled at working collaboratively to accomplish programmatic goals.”

Prior to joining the women’s foundation, Carmell headed the American Jewish Committee’s Bridging America Project, a Ford Foundation-funded national initiative to strengthen Latino-Jewish relations and advance immigration reform. She also has served for many years as a lay leader at Facing History and Ourselves,an international organization that uses study of the Holocaust to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism. She currently serves on the program’s Board of Directors, Committee on Governance, and Chicago Advisory Board.

Previously, Carmell was a lay leader at Temple Beth-El in Northbrook, and has worked at various museums in Chicago, Evanston and Dallas. She received her Bachelor’s in Art History and Psychology from Smith College, her Master’s in Museum Education from George Washington University, and studied nonprofit board governance at the Center for Nonprofit Management at Kellogg. 

“I'm thrilled about this opportunity,” Carmell said, “because the mission of the Jewish Women's Foundation resonates with me on many levels, both personally and professionally. I'm particularly drawn to this unique model of social-change philanthropy as a means to positively impact the lives of Jewish women and girls. And I couldn't be more delighted about working with the JWF Trustees, a truly extraordinary group of women, to achieve that goal.”

Carmell takes over from Emily MuskovitzSweet, who is the new Executive Director of JUF’s Jewish Community Relations Council and Government Affairs. Carmell and her husband, David, live in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. They have two adult children and one grandchild.

“Chicago’s Jewish Women’s Foundation was a pioneer,” said JUF President Steven Nasatir. “From the start, it has provided a forum for women to express themselves and their values through their philanthropy, to highlight critical issues impacting Jewish women and girls, and to mentor women as leaders in the philanthropic world. The foundation has earned its outstanding national reputation in these areas, and Ellen Carmell will continue to grow and define that tradition.”

Since its founding in 1997, the foundation has raised a pledged endowment of over $8.6 million, and awarded more than $2.6 million to 134 projects.

Last month, it announced grants totaling nearly $350,000 to support 21 unique projects that improve the lives of Jewish women and girls locally, in Israel and around the world. Efforts focus on securing women's health and safety, growing strong and self-assured girls, increasing women's economic power, and promoting Jewish women's education and leadership.

Chicago’s foundation also is a founding member of the Jewish Women's Collaborative International Fund, a coalition of 17 Jewish women's funds – 14 in the U.S., three in Israel – that has awarded a collaborative grant to Shutafot (Partnership), a newly created partnership of seven prominent women's organizations in Israel.

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