As we celebrate women in HAKOL this month, I wanted to share some thoughts about leading Jewish women whose stories inspire me. It is most difficult to narrow it down to just a few, when you consider how many there are who fit that role and whom we hold in high esteem. For example:
We begin with Eve, the mother of all human creatures. The four matriarchs, Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah, the prophets, Devorah, Yael and other strong biblical women, Zipporah, Miriam, Esther, Naomi and Ruth from the Book of Ruth and King David’s grandmother, and Bathsheva, King David’s wife. Then there are Hannah from the Chanukah story and Dona Gracia from the 16th century who used her wisdom and wealth to work for human dignity and cultural creativity.
Moving swiftly through history, we know of the bravery of Hannah Senesh the paratrooper who fought and died valiantly for Israel, Sarah Aaronson who also fought and died heroically for the Israeli underground NILI, Anne Frank, and countless Jewish women who saved their children during the Holocaust. There are activists and leaders like Henrietta Szold (founder of Hadassah), and cultural notables such as poets Emma Lazarus and Leah Goldberg, and Golda Meir, RBG, Estee Lauder, Ada Yonat (Nobel prize winner in chemistry), Deborah Lipstadt (fighting against Holocaust deniers), Sheryl Sandberg and, of course, Gal Gadot. All of these women “leaned in” to make a significant difference or change in the lives of those around them, whether close to home or in the broadest global sense.
Considering that there is an entire encyclopedia devoted to Jewish women with hundreds of women just under the letter heading of A, there are so many talented, brilliant women that deserve to be recognized. Many of these remarkable women tend to be overlooked, which is why it is so important for us to highlight their achievements and the paths they trail-blazed for us.
The women mentioned above have made their mark on a global scale and are largely recognized as household names. But there are many more Jewish women making their mark, doing important work that sometimes goes unacknowledged. Many of these women are doing extraordinary things right here in our community! They are leading by example, whether in professional roles or as volunteers who are donating time and resources to make our community a better place.
The women who serve on our boards and lead our Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy have made a conscious decision to give back and to improve the lives of others. They are our grandmothers, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, nieces and friends, and each is to be commended for her contributions to repairing the world. It is with that in mind that we celebrate women in this issue of HAKOL.