Eleanor (Ellie) Friedman

Board Member

At 70 years old, I’m more inclined to write my obituary than my bio. Nonetheless, here is a rapid walk through my life. Born in 1951 in Berkeley, California, I am a sixth-generation San Franciscan and I carry a legacy of geographic connection, civic leadership, and activist philanthropy. I’m a graduate of San Mateo High School where I was co-head of the pompom cheerleaders, Stanford University where I majored in human biology and minored in civil disobedience, and the University of California-Berkeley where my grad thesis was on “The Designer, Social Change, and the Issue of Abortion”, comparing the language and visual design of “right to life” vs. “pro-choice”.

Soon after, my serial career in not-for-profits began, initiated by the Coalition for the Medical Rights of Women and the Vanguard Public Foundation. The next chapter of my life included the co-founding of the New Israel Fund, the Lincoln School Foundation for Teacher innovation, and the Artists Sabbatical Fund with my partner and husband, Jonathan Cohen, and the co-creation of three remarkable daughters.

I also served on the Board of the ACLU of Northern California as had my dad, with civil rights and racial justice being a persistent, prominent topic of conversation throughout my life. I continue to be President of our Friedman Family Foundation, following in my mom’s unmatchable footsteps, where I focus on grantmaking for equity and opportunity for all Americans. My experience as Chair of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company continues to influence the role of art and artists in my thinking and activism.

After a five-year hiatus from not-for-profit Boards, I now have the privilege and pleasure in my sunset years to join the efforts of WDN and Just Vision Inc., an organization that deploys storytelling, media, and public engagement campaigns to give prominence to Palestinians and Israeli leaders working to end the occupation and conflict through nonviolent liberation.

My final chapters, I hope, will include more time to write, to enjoy my family and friends, to cheerlead new leadership, and to continue to believe that this complex, broken world can be more decent, just, and diversely inclusive.

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