JWF provides support for Giving Gardens
JWF provides support for Giving Gardens

Sigal Hemy started as director in September.

Michigan’s Jewish Women’s Foundation is resuming its grant-making activities under the leadership of a new director, after temporarily halting activities last spring due to COVID.

Sigal Hemy started as director in September. She is the only paid staff of the organization, which is directed by a leadership committee of its trustees.

The Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit (JWF) began in 1998 as an autonomous fund within the United Jewish Foundation. A number of studies in the field of philanthropy had shown that few grants nationwide were going to programs that benefit women and girls — and even fewer were going to programs that promote social change and gender equity.

Women can become JWF trustees by making a significant donation that is in addition to their annual gifts to Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. There are also opportunities for lifetime and intergenerational trusteeships. From its original 11 trustees, the organization grew to more than 65 at the end of its first year and now numbers more than 145. The foundation fosters a democratic environment where all trustees have a voice and a vote.

Sigal Hemy
Sigal Hemy

The JWF’s 2020 grant cycle was suspended after the COVID pandemic hit. The organization curtailed its activities and gave $100,000 of its 2020 grant funds to Federation’s emergency COVID relief fund.

The organization is now continuing its 2020 grant cycle by evaluating all open grant applications; it is also preparing to accept new applications for the 2021 cycle. With a maximum grant of $20,000, the JWF has granted more than $3 million to local nonprofit organizations. These agencies, many of them Jewish-sponsored, have used JWF grant dollars to respond to domestic abuse, help women become economically self-sufficient, enrich the lives of girls and women of all ages through educational programs and cultural events, support women dealing with substance abuse, fund work training programs and help women with chronic illnesses.

Hemy was a program officer at the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, where she managed a $3.6 million grants portfolio in arts, culture and sustainability.

She grew up in Pittsburgh and holds an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and a master’s in clarinet performance from the University of Michigan. After working in arts administration for five years, she earned a master’s in business administration at U-M’s Ross School of Business, specializing in strategy and social impact.

Hemy, 32, was appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs and is on the board of directors for People for Palmer Park.

“The trustees at JWF are an amazing group of women, and my favorite thing about this position is working with them to ensure that their giving is as meaningful as it can be,” said Hemy, who lives in Pleasant Ridge with her husband, Mike Spiegel, a software developer, and Sammie, a rescue German shepherd mix.

Leaders of the JWF trustees are thrilled with Hemy’s knowledge and enthusiasm. “She is intelligent, skilled and very engaging in an unassuming way,” said Helen Katz of Bloomfield Hills, who was one of 11 founding trustees of the JWF and served as its first director.

While respecting the group’s traditions, Hemy is “poised to make the kinds of changes that will help us grow and thrive. The leadership is thrilled with what she has accomplished in her short tenure at JWF,” Katz said.

Debbie Singer, chair of the trustees’ leadership team, said she was impressed with Hemy’s calm demeanor and breadth of knowledge of foundation grant making.

As the organization moves into its 2021 cycle, Hemy will be teaching the trustees how to evaluate grant applications, said Singer, and will be working with community members to assess the needs for Jewish women and girls.

Mara Moss of Bloomfield Hills, trustees’ co-chair, added, “She’s young and dynamic, and we’re excited to have her.”