Turning the Tables

Jewish Teen Foundations Grantee Spotlight

Currently in its 14th year, the Federation's Jewish Teen Foundations program trains, inspires, and enables high school students in the Bay Area to create mission statements, research nonprofits, review grant proposals, interview executives, fundraise, and make strategic, values-based grantmaking decisions for the issues about which they care the most. They also raise real dollars and fund real organizations. One example is Turning the Tables, a nonprofit in Israel that provides vocational training and empowerment for women exiting the cycle of prostitution. Turning the Tables received $30,000 in grants from the Jewish Teen Foundations in 2015 and 2016.

Turning the Tables was founded in 2011, introducing a unique model of economic empowerment dedicated exclusively to women exiting the cycle of prostitution and sex trafficking. At Turning the Tables, women attend in-studio courses with teachers from the Israeli fashion industry to learn sewing, cutting, patterning, and sales. After their training, participants enter an entrepreneur incubator program to receive individual mentoring and materials to produce, sell, and market their own lines. Run by women and catering to women and transgender women ages 25 to 65, Turning the Tables also provides a persistent and compassionate support system that recognizes the social and emotional aspects of this critical transition period for its participants.

50 women receive holistic services each year, including women native to Israel, Russian and African immigrants, and those trafficked to Israel.

Support from JTF has sustained the organization’s Vocational Training Coordinator and Volunteer Supervisor positions, both essential for meeting the specialized needs of their participants. JTF grants also enabled Turning the Tables to bring women to its studio who were too far to pay for transportation on their own.

“Thank you for helping these women overcome barriers small and large and enabling us to provide care, hope, and opportunity for their new beginnings.”

– Leemor Reiner-Segal, TtT Staff

In its most recent grant report, Turning the Tables describes two ways it is working to expand in order to address the needs of women in sex trafficking in Israel:

Systemic Change

Government policies currently do not recognize sex trade survivors as having PTSD and, therefore, eligibility for financial aid. As long as women are economically unstable, they are unable to fully transition from prostitution to a normative life. Turning the Tables is engaging with the government to change these policies.

Larger Facility

Turning the Tables has earned a reputation among women in sex trade as a stable and successful option to gain support and experience to lead a more normative life. Because of this success and trust, they need a larger facility to accommodate the greater demand. Within the next few months, Turning the Tables will move its activities into a new space that will, for the first time, have separate spaces for working and classes!

In June 2016, the Hadassah Foundation awarded the Tanenbaum prize to Turning the Tables, recognizing them as emerging leaders of social change.


Twenty-nine year old Shoshana came from an abusive family and grew up in foster homes and attending boarding schools. At age 15, she was pulled into prostitution. By 16, she was pregnant and separated from her child. After years of street life, drug abuse, and hospitalizations, Shoshana joined Turning the Tables in 2013. Her start was bumpy and unstable, with many setbacks and absences. But, by 2015, she had gained strength, was able to stabilize her participation, and graduated from the Vocational Training course.

Parallel to this, she began discovering her passion for fashion, producing her own items and selling them. Today, she is producing and selling her own fashion items and has regained custody of her child. Shoshana says: "When I look back at the journey I have made, I feel proud of who I am today. Now I want to mentor other women in my situation and give them hope." In August 2016, Shoshana began teaching sewing to a group of women within a Turning the Tables partner organization.

"Seeing the women at Turning the Tables filled me with admiration and compassion. I was also very impressed with the organization’s creative mission and curriculum. There’s so much dedication and hard work that go into running such a valuable and innovative organization."

– Anya Zimmerman-Smith, JTF board member, 2014-16

Read more about Turning the Tables in the New York Times.

The Jewish Teen Foundations offers Bay Area Jewish teens the opportunity to explore Jewish values and ideas, develop leadership skills, and practice philanthropy. Teens serving on one of the three regional JTF cohorts learn how to run their own nonprofit foundations and become strategic grantmakers. Learn More

Categories: Teens, Philanthropy, Grantees


March 14, 2017