Announcing the recipient of the 2015 Judith Chapman Memorial Women’s Leadership Award

The Federation is thrilled to announce that Gina Waldman will be awarded the Judith Chapman Memorial Women’s Leadership Award for 2015. Each year, the Federation honors a female role model in the community with this prestigious award, which recognizes outstanding Jewish volunteer leaders who go above-and-beyond in dedicating their time, energy and resources. These women are mentors, modeling and motivating others to express their Jewish values by supporting the overall well-being of their Jewish community. Gina will be physically presented with the award on April 1, at the Federation’s Power of One event.

“Gina Waldman is an extraordinary leader. When she puts her heart into something, she is unstoppable.” — Corrine Levy, director of the Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy. 

Gina Waldman

Photo courtesy of Kiki Haynes Photography
Courtesy of Kiki Haynes Photography

Gina Waldman is a survivor. Born Gina Bublil in Tripoli to a family that had lived in Libya for centuries, she was persecuted, nearly murdered and brutally expelled from her homeland in 1967, all because she is Jewish. She is one of nearly a million Jews who were forced to flee their homes in Arab lands from 1948-1970. In 1967, Gina and her family fled to Italy. In 1969, at the age of 21, Gina immigrated to San Francisco as a refugee with just $200 and a trunk. She has dedicated the past 45 years to the cause of freedom and the defense of human rights.

In the 1970s and '80s, Gina served as director of the Bay Area Council for Soviet Jewry, and was instrumental in winning freedom for thousands of Soviet Jews. She worked closely with Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov and human rights champion Natan Sharansky. Gina also fought human rights abuses in Argentina and Chile during Augusto Pinochet’s regime. In the early 1990s, through the Jewish Family and Children's Service, she helped resettle Muslim refugees from Bosnia within the Bay Area.

After 9/11, together with Joseph Abdel Wahed, Gina co-founded JIMENA (Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa) in 2002 to bear witness to the suffering of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Her own personal story adds much-needed perspective to any discussion of the Middle East.

Gina’s accomplishments are legendary and include winning the prestigious Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award. As JIMENA president, she testified in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the United States Congress Human Rights Caucus, the Canadian Parliament, and the Israeli Knesset as an expert witness, to ensure that every time government officials discuss the issue of Palestinian refugees on the global stage, they must also pair the reference with discussion of the nearly one million Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

Gina has also been very engaged in our local Jewish community. She currently serves on the Federation's Board of Governors and was a past board member from 2007-2011.

Additionally, Gina has made presentations to major universities such as Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and numerous others. She speaks about her own experiences living as a Jew under Islam. In English punctuated with Arabic, Gina exposes and calls for an end to the injustices that still plague and polarize the Middle East. And, with a deft touch, she exhorts her audiences — which are often bitterly divided — to find common ground and to seek reconciliation. Her consistent message is that “love is stronger than hate.”

Gina speaks five languages. She is married to Dan Waldman and has two sons, Josh and Noah.

Learn more about Judith Chapman, and join us to honor Gina Waldman at Power of One on April 1, 2015.


January 12, 2015