Planned Parenthood prez to share insight at S.F. event

Like those in Israel, Gloria Feldt knows all about living in the shadow of terrorism.

The president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a nonprofit agency that is both an advocate and provider of reproductive health care services for women, has had more than her fair share of death threats and anthrax scares.

Following Sept. 11, for instance, her Manhattan office received more than 500 letters signed by "The Army of God," claiming to contain anthrax.

And Feldt — who will be the keynote speaker at the 10th annual Power of One fund-raising dinner in San Francisco next week — received death threats with "neo-Nazi language" when she was chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood in Arizona.

"It was frightening — that's what terrorism is all about," said Feldt by telephone from New York. "Terrorists are joined at the head…with a basic hatred and intolerance."

Feldt will touch on terrorism and the conflict in Israel when she speaks at the event, which begins at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Westin St. Francis Hotel at Union Square. Put on by the Women's Alliance of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, Power of One is open to women who have contributed at least $365 to the federation's annual campaign. It is one of the largest gatherings of Jewish women in the Bay Area, with an estimated 500 attendees.

Feldt said it would be "impossible" not to discuss her concern for Israel with such a large group of Jewish women. "There's so much to learn from the conflict, about courage and about how you deal with terrorism with the necessary strengths, yet without letting it rob you of your humanity."

Feldt, who has worked for Planned Parenthood for 28 years, grew up as one of the only Jewish children in a small Texas town. Her family was not religiously observant, but did belong to a synagogue in a nearby town. Despite a lack of formal Jewish education, Feldt said she felt the call of tikkun olam from an early age.

"The moral imperative of repairing the world is just in my genes. The call to social justice has guided my life."

Feldt first began working for Planned Parenthood in a job which she "hadn't intended to apply for."

But it wasn't long before "I became completely enthralled with Planned Parenthood," she said. "I have serendipitously fallen into the most important work that could be done for the future of humanity, in terms of human and women's rights."

For this reason, Feldt said she is delighted to speak before a group of women "that's given so much" to the Jewish community. "My immediate assumption is that this will be a very smart, activist, generous group of women. What could be better?"

Also at the dinner, this year's Judith M. Chapman Women's Leadership Award will be presented to Adele Corvin of Belvedere, for her sustained volunteer work in the community. Corvin has served in many top capacities, including as the first woman chair of the American Red Cross and vice-chair of the Rhoda Goldman Institute on Aging. She will serve as chair of the board for the S.F.-based JCF beginning in July.

"I know who gets things done in this world," said Feldt, with a laugh. "If you want the world to run right, you should give it to Jewish women."