Jewish Federation Women’s Division Chair Leslie Cane Schneiderman with Woman of Valor honoree Bobbi Kroot. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)
iSociety: Rochelle Rose

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The 32nd Annual Women’s Philanthropy Luncheon hosted by the Women’s Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara bestowed the 2016 Woman of Valor Award to Bobbi Kroot, who splits her time between California and Indiana.

Several hundred women and men attended the festive pink-themed luncheon and program at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Loggia Ballroom.

Co-chaired by Cindy Feinberg and Debra Friedland, the event was organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara Women’s Division and is the single largest annual fundraiser for the group.

Beginning with an outdoor reception under the Biltmore’s canopies, guests enjoyed pink champagne sponsored by Leslie and Mark Schneiderman while they bid on the silent auction items donated by local companies such as Deckers Brands, Andersen’s Danish Bakery and Restaurant, Occhiali Eyewear and others.

A Southern California native, Kroot’s legacy of service has spanned the lives of those she has helped. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1967 and master’s degree in 1968, both in education, she began a career teaching deaf children.

When not working, she volunteered and was involved in philanthropy to support small children, the elderly and anyone needing extra help. Kroot has dedicated her life to helping others and strengthening her community.

While raising two children, Kroot helped procure jobs for disabled adults. She also taught lip-reading from home and tutored deaf children to assist their matriculation into mainstream schools.

Later, she founded and raised the funds to create the Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Department at Indiana University, which served as a model for a similar program at UC Santa Barbara.

Locally, Kroot has served on the board of Santa Barbara Hillel and the Research Committee for the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara.

She continues to serve on the board of the Center for Successful Aging after a six-year term as president. She has also been president of Congregation B’nai B’rith’s Sisterhood for 15 years and remains active on the board of the Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University.

In addition to the gifts of her time, talent and seemingly inexhaustible energy, Kroot has been generous philanthropically, supporting several different causes and organizations, becoming a Lion of Judah at Jewish Federation, and, with her husband, making a legacy gift through Federation’s Book of Life, which she founded.

Upon accepting the Woman of Valor Award, Kroot said, “I feel like I am only the puppeteer. You are only as good a leader as the people with whom you work.”

She was also presented a certificate from Mayor Helene Schneider, who acknowledged that the occasion also marked International Women’s Day.

The luncheon’s keynote speaker was Rabbi Naomi Levy, author of the national bestseller To Begin Again and Talking to God. She is also the founder and leader of Nashuva, the Jewish spiritual outreach movement.

Named one of the 50 top rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine in 2009, she was in the first class of women to enter the Conservative rabbinical seminary. Naomi has appeared on Oprah, Today and NPR.

For over 30 years, the Women’s Division has offered women of all ages a unique opportunity to enhance and support Jewish life in the Santa Barbara community, in Israel and around the world.

It is committed to the ideals and values of Jewish heritage and tradition, to tzedakah (righteousness/charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world).

The Women’s Division offers an array of educational, social and fundraising events. Laini Millar Melnick is currently board president and Leslie Cane Schneiderman is chair.

For more information, visit or contact Jilli Spear, Women’s Division coordinator, at or 805.957.1115.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara is located at 524 Chapala Street in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.