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photo by Brandon Vick

Attorney, actress, writer, and professor

Jewish Women International’s

WOMEN TO WATCH Gala Luncheon & Symposium

Monday, December 11, 2017 Marriott Wardman Park Hotel 2660 WOODLEY ROAD NW, WASHINGTON, DC

Sponsorship Opportunities and Tickets at

1129 20th Street NW Suite 801, Washington DC 20036 800.343.2823 •



Danielle Cantor


3 THE 2017 WOMEN TO WATCH  This year’s Women to Watch share a drive for making a difference.



Meredith Jacobs BOARD OF TRUSTEES Vivian Bass, Ellen Stone, Kim Oster-Holstein, Immediate Past Chair Chair Vice Chair Tami Ackerman Robyn Altman Miri Cypers Susan Feldman Meryl Frank Toby Graff Erica Leatham


Rabbi Susan Shankman Deena Silver Julie Bender Silver Beth Sloan Leslie Speisman Susan W. Turnbull Suzi Weiss-Fischmann

24 STANDING UP, SPEAKING OUT It's been a year of progress for JWI.

26 FROM ONE WOMAN TO ANOTHER  JWI is cultivating the next generation of women leaders.

line. Inspired by our legacy of progressive women’s leadership and guided by our Jewish values, Jewish Women International works to ensure that all women and girls thrive in healthy relationships, control their financial futures and realize the full potential of their personal strength. JWI magazine is distributed to donors and supporters of JWI. Postmaster: Please send address changes and inquiries to JWI, 1129 20th Street NW, Suite 801, Washington, DC 20036.



A personal perspective on this inspiring event, from a woman who's experienced it from many angles.

JWI magazine is published annually in print and year-round on-




JWI's new Joan Margolius Cherner fund, commemorating a beloved supporter, has been created to help women and families rebuild their lives after domestic violence.

Connect with JW and JWI: JWI JewishWomenIntl 1129 20th Street NW, Suite 801 Washington, DC 20036 800 343 2823 • © Contents JWI 2017. The articles and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the view of JWI or any member thereof.

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Vivian G. Bass Chair, JWI Board of Trustees

When you ask Jewish women about who inspired them in life, they’ll often tell that it was their mother or grandmother. Indeed, many of the Women to Watch whom you’ll meet on the pages ahead speak glowingly of moms or grand moms who were devoted to community causes and helping others, who modeled a strong work ethic or who, like the mom of honoree Shelley Zalis, organized a women’s conference that drew 3,000 participants! As Shelley says, “If my mom could do it. I could do it.” I feel that way too: I’ve been engaged with JWI for 10 years but I recognize that I stand on the shoulders of giants. This has been on my mind because JWI just turned 120 years old. It is mindboggling to think of the hundreds of thousands of women who have been involved in JWI’s work over the past 12 decades. One source of JWI’s longevity is its ability to adapt in order to meet new and emerging needs. That doesn’t mean jettisoning your values – it means using those values to create innovative programs that address the very real and current issues that women and young people confront; it means building partnerships based on shared values, and it means not being afraid to speak out about controversial issues impacting innumerable lives. This past year JWI has truly been “on fire.” The breadth and scope of our work has expanded. Here are three snapshots of these exciting developments. Turn to page 24 to learn more. Our Young Women’s Leadership Network is now a national movement. I was fortunate to attend the exciting launches in Denver and L.A. as well as many of the programs the network 2

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has hosted in D.C. and New York City. I can’t wait to book my flight to Chicago for the launch of our network there in 2018. The 2016 Young Women’s Leadership Conference, made possible annually by the Sondra D. Bender Leadership Institute of JWI, was the largest to date, drawing hundreds of women from across the country. I know I'll see even more at our 2017 conference on December 10. Read more about the Network on page 26. Post-election 2016, what we’ve known for decades was brought to the forefront: That speaking out on issues impacting women is critical. JWI is channeling this commitment to civic engagement through our 3…2…1…Action! e-newsletter, which outlines three weekly action steps so we can be heard on such issues as health care, abusers' access to firearms, and protecting campus sexual assault survivors under Title IX. Members of Congress have taken note: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), praised our newsletter when we attended a briefing at her office in March. This year our work around healthy relationships has truly expanded. What really distinguishes JWI from other organizations in the field is that we engage men as allies while we empower women. JWI’s Change the Culture initiative has grown to include 10 more universities, including six in the New York area. In the New Year that begins on September 20, I wish each of you good health, happiness, and opportunities for inspiration. I hope you’ll join me at our Women to Watch gala luncheon on December 11 as together we celebrate the power of women, l’dor v’dor, from generation to generation.

JWI's 17th annual celebration of outstanding Jewish women role models Monday, December 11, 2017 Washington Marriott Wardman Park Tickets & Details at


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MARLA GARCHIK A couple of images pop into Marla Garchik’s mind when she thinks back to her childhood, growing up in Pittsburgh surrounded by a loving extended family. “I remember at holidays in particular my grandmother always saying we should set extra seats for anyone who doesn’t have a place to go,” she says. And then there were the times she and her four sisters – Margie (her identical twin), Lori, Lynne, and Janie – would accompany her grandmother on one of her regular visits to the Hebrew Home to visit residents to say hello and play bingo. “She always said it’s nice to make others smile. She would lend a hand, especially if someone didn’t have family members or advocates to help,” Garchik, 55, recalls. These and other “random acts of kindness” she saw her mother, her grandmothers, and other family members perform, helped shape her loving nature as well as her commitment to continue her family tradition of compassion and inclusiveness.


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That commitment has driven Garchik’s work with an array of charitable organizations including the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington, Boca Regional Hospital, the Jewish Social Service Agency, American Heart Association, Palm Beach County Food Bank, the American Cancer Society and more. Where she has made her greatest mark, however, is in the realm of autism. She has worked to raise more than $1 million for the Autism Speaks organization and is the founder and president of Peace Love Solve, an apparel company dedicated to raising awareness and acceptance of autism. At her side, and passionately sharing her belief in “giving back” is Steve, her husband of 15 years. A real estate developer who founded the Garchik Family Foundation in memory of his father, he was deeply involved in philanthropy before they met.

“My husband is the person I credit with inspiring my endless efforts to take on meaningful causes that can help make a difference,” Garchik says. Among those causes is the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her husband was one of its first supporters going back to its planning days in the 1980s, and the couple’s commitment has remained steadfast: Early this year they cohosted a luncheon for the museum in South Florida. As a teen, Garchik worked at the local JCC with hearing impaired and special needs children and young adults. After attending Penn State, she studied at Gallaudet University to hone her interpreting skills. Later she had a successful career selling real estate, working for Star Power, a subsidiary of PEPCO, and in government sales for AT&T. She had been living and working in Washington, D.C., for a number of years when, at 38, she met her husband on a blind date. She had never been married and her husband had been divorced for eight years and had three children. They married two years later. “His three children became mine,” she says. “They call me Ima.” Her initial interest in raising funds and awareness about autism came when her nephew was diagnosed with Asperger’s, a type of autism. Later, Garchik’s own son was diagnosed at age two-and-a-half with PDDNOS, the diagnosis applied to children or adults who are on the autism spectrum but do not fully meet the criteria for another disorder on the spectrum. A friend recommended that she and her husband meet an advocate from Autism Speaks. “From that day forward, my husband and I realized that our mission had been chosen for us,” she says. “We decided to dedicate our lives to helping families find answers.” They undertook an intensive early intervention program of Applied Behavior Analysis therapy with their son. By the time he was five he had improved to such a great extent that they were told he no longer would have been diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. “Now he is an autism advocate and we are too,” says Garchik, who moved from the Washington

"IT COMES FROM MY HEART. WHEN YOU FIRST HEAR THAT DIAGNOSIS IT IS VERY OVERWHELMING AND ISOLATING. I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TO EVER FEEL THEY ARE ALONE." area to Boca Raton, Fla., six years ago. “We live and breathe our work. Our whole family does.” For more than a decade, Garchik has co-chaired walks in support of Autism Speaks both nationally and in Palm Beach. She has hosted many other fundraisers for the organization and serves as one of its ambassadors and advocates. She is known as someone to call for guidance after hearing an autism diagnosis. “I speak to a lot of families with a newly diagnosed child and try to help them navigate through the process,” Garchik says. In 2013, she got together with her children and sisters to launch Peace Love Solve. The company’s merchandise includes tanks, tees, sweats and jewelry featuring distinctive designs and messaging raising awareness and inspiring acceptance of those with autism. A portion of sales is generously donated to Autism Speaks. She also spearheads specialty campaigns to benefit other charities. “It doesn’t take effort because it comes from my heart,” Garchik says of her work. “When you first hear that diagnosis it is very overwhelming and isolating. I don’t want people to ever feel they are alone.” JWI Magazine |


ANNA ISAACSON Anna Isaacson’s first job in sports was working parttime as a college student selling souvenirs near the old Yankee stadium. Less than two decades later, as senior vice president of social responsibility at the National Football League, she played a pivotal role in developing the NFL’s programmatic response to a series of domestic violence incidents in 2014. The NFL’s crisis began after former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice was caught on video punching his then fiancée. At the time, Isaacson had already been at the NFL for eight years. As the vice president of community relations and philanthropy she had deftly managed such initiatives as the league’s breast cancer awareness and childhood obesity education programs. But as the crisis growing out of the league’s handling of the Rice incident escalated, she was called upon to review the NFL’s personal conduct policy in the areas of domestic, sexual and child abuse.


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On September 15, 2014, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced her appointment to a newly created position as vice president for social responsibility. In his formal memorandum, he tasked her with overseeing “the development of the full range of education, training and support programs relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and matters of respect.” Working with her would be three experts in the field, including 2015 JWI Woman to Watch, Jane Randel, founder of NO MORE, a coalition dedicated to getting the issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse out of the shadows. “It was a whirlwind for the first couple of months until we found our path forward,” Isaacson says of the period when the NFL was in the hot seat for its handling of domestic abuse.

She joined Goodell in meetings across the country with 150 experts in the domestic violence field. “We were out listening to people, hearing thoughts and ideas, getting feedback and, frankly, getting yelled at, and taking it in and deciding what to do and how to do it,” she says. “We wanted to take this moment when we were being challenged, take responsibility for where we made mistakes and then try to make a difference for the rest of the country,” she says. Today, Isaacson is proud that the NFL is in the fourth year of its social responsibility education series for “every member of the NFL family” and has partnerships with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The NFL also sponsors a digital character education program teaching middle school students “about healthy relationships, communication, respect for themselves and respect for others,” and a program for high school coaches. Isaacson says that “being a good listener and emotionally aware came in handy when working on such an emotionally troubling topic.” She believes her evident “passion for making a difference,” and ability to deal honestly and authentically enabled her to build trust with the many groups with whom she had to work. She has observed that attention to gender has increased markedly at the NFL since the Ray Rice crisis. Women’s presence has grown through new hires in all areas of operation, including on the football side. “I can be in a meeting now where there are no men present,” she says, but notes that at the senior levels, there is “still room for growth.” Isaacson serves on the committee that planned the women’s summit taking place for the past two years before the Super Bowl, and is co-chair of the NFL Diversity Council. She also played a key role in the development of WIN, the Women’s Interactive Network, a forum where NFL staff members come together to talk about gender issues. Flexible work arrangements and how to make things better for working moms and working families comes

"YOU CAN’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN [IN YOUR CAREER], BUT KEEP WORKING AND CHALLENGING YOURSELF AND LOOKING FOR THE NEXT OPPORTUNITY." up often in these discussions. Isaacson knows from personal experience the importance of having access to flexibility: she and her husband, David Kovacevic, an orthopedic surgeon, have a nearly two-year-old toddler, Theo, and she is able to work at home one day a week. Growing up in Brooklyn, the daughter of a teacher and a family business owner, Isaacson followed in her mother’s footsteps and became an avid baseball fan. By the time she was in high school, she aspired to a career in sports, but wasn’t sure what aspect to pursue. Just out of college, she was hired part-time by the Brooklyn Cyclones, a minor league baseball team, to run a mall souvenir booth. When the team opened a museum, she used her Barnard history degree to develop exhibits and community programming. That experience pointed her toward community relations, at the time a relatively new field in sports. She subsequently applied to the NFL in this area and was hired. “I think that it’s important for young people starting out to know that their career may take different twists and turns,” she says of her experiences. “You can’t always know what’s going to happen, but keep working at it and challenging yourself and looking for the next opportunity.” JWI Magazine |


ERICA KESWIN “If you talked to 10 or 20 people who have known me throughout my life and asked them one word they would use to describe me it would be ‘connector,’” says Erica Keswin. Indeed, Keswin, who has spent 20 years working in organization and leadership development, related so well with colleagues at her workplaces that she’d know about their weekend plans and the names of their spouses and children. As time went on – and the use of technology increased – she started noticing changes in the workplace. “As technology became more pervasive, I saw a shift in how people were – and were not – connecting at work. There weren’t as many people standing at the watercooler connecting and people were choosing to call into meetings, even if they worked down the hall. Employee engagement numbers were down and turnover was up.”


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Research repeatedly demonstrates that people with workplace connections perform better on the job, Keswin, 49, notes. One study out of Cornell showed that firefighters who share meals with colleagues build trust and thus save more lives. Firefighters’ go-to meal – spaghetti and meatballs – inspired the name of the business that Keswin launched in the fall 2016: The Spaghetti Project, a platform through which she shares the science and stories behind connection at work. She travels around the country speaking at conferences and meeting with companies and community groups, and writes about the topic for such publications as Harvard Business Review, Forbes Woman and the Huffington Post. In fall 2018, McGraw-Hill will publish Keswin’s book: Bring Your Human to Work: 10 Surefire Ways to Design

a Workplace That is Good for People, Great for Business and Just Might Change the World. “One of the lines I often use in my presentations is: ‘Left to our own devices we are not connecting,’” says Keswin. “And that’s all of us, not just young people. We need to be intentional and create systems and processes that honor people at work.” “Send an email to your whole team about a meeting but once you are face-to-face, put your device away,” she says. “It can really hurt relationships if one person is talking and someone else is texting under the table.” Starting her own business has been both “scary and exciting,” Keswin says, but from childhood onward she has never been afraid to dive into new experiences. Growing up in Fairfield, Conn., her dad, an attorney, and her mom, a social worker, always encouraged her to try new things. She was captain of her high school gymnastics team and studied abroad both in high school and college. After graduating from University of Vermont with a political science degree, she wanted to try her hand working as an intern in Washington, D.C. She wrote 100 letters and secured an internship on Capitol Hill. That summer, she joined a group from D.C. at a beach house and, always interested in learning about people’s jobs, she struck up a conversation with a woman who worked at Booz Allen & Hamilton, a consulting firm. The woman offered to share Keswin’s résumé with colleagues and that ultimately led to a job offer. Soon, she was in Houston working for the senior engineers at NASA designing requirements for the space station. She realized that to move ahead in her career she needed an MBA. After attending the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern, she worked at two firms devoted to developing business leadership, the Hay Group and Russell Reynolds Associates, where she served as executive director. In 2011, Keswin teamed up with Sherry Turkle, MIT professor, researching the impact of technology on relationships in the workplace for

"I AM TRYING TO MAKE SURE THAT MY KIDS FIND THE 'SWEET SPOT' BETWEEN UNDERSTANDING TECHNOLOGY AND PUTTING IT 'IN ITS PLACE,' SO THEY LEARN HOW TO ENGAGE IN REAL CONVERSATIONS." Turkle’s 2015 book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. As a wife – her husband, Jeff, is the founder of an investment management firm – and the mother of twins, Julia and Caroline, 14, and Daniel, 12, Keswin recognizes the importance of making time for family and causes she cares about. She is very involved at her children’s Reform Jewish day school in Manhattan, Rodeph Sholom School, where she has been a board member for six years and has served as the vice chair and head of the development and nominations committees. Since she missed having a bat mitzvah at 13 (her parents had divorced the year before), she decided to have one at age 30, with her sister, who was 28, and her half-sister who was turning 13. As a mom, Keswin strives to teach her children about the importance of honoring relationships. “I am trying very hard to make sure that my kids find the 'sweet spot' between understanding technology, but also putting it ‘in its place,’ out of sight, so that they learn how to engage in real conversations. We are even trying to teach them how to talk on the phone, vs. texting, to look people in the eye and shake people’s hands.” In other words, she is teaching her kids – and the rest of us too – how to value the human touch. JWI Magazine |


MARDENE MILLER “Everything has a solution. Nothing is bad news. There has to be a silver lining. Any challenge can be fixed,” says Mardene Miller, when asked to describe the philosophy that has helped fuel her success in the competitive world of advertising. “I always come from an area of positivity and no boundaries,” she says. “I think that anything is possible and we can do this.” As president of Harrison & Star, a global healthcare advertising and promotion agency, Miller, 52, oversees the development of campaigns to help pharmaceutical companies educate physicians and patients about diseases and medications in such different therapeutic areas as neurology, endocrinology and virology. “Our passion lies in digging into the science to uncover a brand’s full potential and then elucidating the meaningful spark that connects prescribers with brands, and brands with patients to drive behavior change.”


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A graduate of Pace University with a degree in marketing and advertising, she started out as a “gal Friday” with an ad agency serving the banking industry. She then moved on to work at several other media companies that focused on education and promotion to physicians, including one of the very first online communities for physicians. The lifelong New Yorker then ventured to San Francisco and became a pharmaceutical sales rep for five years. Returning to New York two decades ago, she was hired at Harrison & Star. “I started as a junior account person and worked my way up to president five years ago and haven’t looked back,” she says. Her days are busy with client meetings, strategic sessions, workshops and brainstorming, as well as

dealing with agency finances, human resources and identifying “additional ways to differentiate the agency and drive success for our clients.” “I wear a lot of hats here,” she says, noting that she also oversees the firm’s women’s initiative. “We strive to ensure that gender parity exists in our agency, that women always feel they have a voice and that we deal with women in the workplace issues head-on.” Miller also wears other hats – as wife to her husband Jeff, as a canine lover and as mom to 17-year-old triplets. “It’s a three, two, one strategy – three children, two dogs and one husband,” she says, laughing. “From the moment I wake up in the morning until I finally I sit down at night it’s pretty much nonstop. I’m not comfortable unless I’m busy and stressed. That’s kind of how I function.” She says that she believes that “You can have it all,” but the term “work-life balance is a misnomer. That infers equality. You never have equality. You are never 50 percent at home and 50 percent at the office. It’s about calibration. There are some times when I would have to give only 20 percent to my kids, because there was something urgent going on at work. But it’s temporary, and then I’m going to calibrate myself to give my kids more and expend less at work.” Born in Brooklyn, and raised in the Bronx and Westchester County, N.Y., Miller credits her parents, “for instilling in me a very strong work ethic and how to be a hustler, which has really done me well.” “I was surrounded by strong women, my grandmothers, and especially my mom who worked my whole life,” she adds. “She was always a role model of being able to work and raise a family.” While immersed in both business and family responsibilities, Miller carves out time to make a difference. In her own Westchester community, she organizes a Halloween carnival for children living at a homeless shelter in White Plains, N.Y., and at Harrison & Star she helped create Caring Hands, a

"I FEEL THAT I’M A GOOD LEADER WHEN PEOPLE THAT WORK FOR ME ARE SUCCESSFUL – IF THEY ACHIEVE A NEW MILESTONE, EVEN IF THEY LEAVE AND GET A GREAT JOB, IT MAKES ME PROUD." charitable initiative. The agency also does pro bono work, and Miller is especially involved in its HIV advocacy work. For many years, she also led Harrison & Star’s mentorship program. “One thing that I used to consistently tell mentees is to figure out what their brand is. We do that for clients and products all the time, but people forget to do it for themselves. Once you determine your brand, that’s what you use as a blueprint to approach your decision making and how you want people to view you.” In supervising colleagues, she emphasizes accountability – taking responsibility when you do something wrong and “seeing a solution so that positive change can come out of a problem.” She also sees collaboration and kindness as essential. “I always say we have to work hard but can be nice at it as well,” she says. “It’s about treating each other and everybody with respect.” “I feel that I’m a good leader when people that work for me are successful – if they get promoted, if they achieve a new milestone, even if they leave and get a great job,” Miller adds. “I feel that I contributed to that and it makes me proud.” JWI Magazine |


JEN MAXFIELD OSTFELD Jen Maxfield Ostfeld strode across a playground toward an apartment building in Paterson N.J. A TV news reporter in New York City, she was assigned to cover a crime in the building, but something else struck her: even though it was a beautiful summer day, not a single child was on the playground. Then she saw why – needles and other drug paraphernalia littered the ground. “I called my assignment desk and said that I understood the story they wanted me to do, but that the real story was about the playground. I suggested we call the mayor and the Department of Recreation to try to get the park cleaned up,” she remembers saying. It was then 10 a.m.; by 2 p.m., city workers were at the park cleaning up and, by late afternoon, the people in the apartment building had a safe place for their children to play. Her story about the park's transformation aired on the evening news.


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In many ways that incident captures the abiding theme of Ostfeld’s life – devotion to her community and to helping the people who live there. For the last 15 years, first with ABC in New York, and more recently with NBC New York, Ostfeld, 40, has covered Central and Northern New Jersey. Her stories are broadcast to millions of viewers in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. She also works as a fill-in anchor and serves as an adjunct professor of broadcast journalism at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, her alma mater. On most work days, she's crisscrossing the region in a live van to report on the events and issues impacting its citizens. “We are always on the go, speaking to people and visiting new places,” she says.

Born in Providence, R.I., Ostfeld grew up in Bergen County, N.J., where she and her family now make their home. “The viewers trust me. I’m from this community, I understand this community, and I care about my community," she says. Accuracy is her professional ground rule. “If I hear something, I confirm it,” she says. “My goal is to put together a story that reflects the totality of the issue that I’m reporting on.” Social media wasn’t yet a force when she started in the business in 2000, but now it gives her the opportunity to interact more with her viewers. “I like hearing from our viewers after a story airs,” she says. “I enjoy that it’s more of a conversation now. I like the constructive feedback and sometimes viewers have great suggestions that I use to improve my work.” She cautions the students she teaches at Columbia not to be “too casual about the sourcing of information” they see on social media. “We need to make sure that what we are putting out there is accurate,” she says. “You can’t take something from social media as fact. You have to do your own research.” As a sophomore pre-med student at Columbia, Ostfeld planned on following in her dad’s footsteps and becoming a physician. That was before she saw a notice for a CNN internship at the United Nations. She had written for her high school newspaper so she applied. “It was not the kind of internship where you just got coffee,” she recalls of the experience. “I worked with correspondent Gary Tuchman and he gave me great responsibility and was so generous with his time and his knowledge.” That experience inspired her to rethink her career direction. Ostfeld is the mother of three – a son, 10, and two daughters, 9 and 6. Her husband, Scott, whom she describes as “a great inspiration, pushing me to achieve more,” is a partner at a hedge fund. The oldest of six children, Ostfeld recalls seeing her busy parents make time not only for her and her siblings but to “be involved in the community and give back.”

"WE CELEBRATE SHABBAT EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT AND ONE OF OUR TRADITIONS IS TO GO AROUND THE TABLE AT DINNER AND EVERYBODY SAYS A MITZVAH THEY DID THAT WEEK." Raised Protestant, Ostfeld converted to Judaism while pregnant with her second child. What she especially enjoys about being Jewish, she says, “is the obligation of doing good works, performing mitzvot and engaging in tikkun olam, making the world a better place than we found it.” The family is active in Temple Emanu El in Closter, N.J., and Ostfeld and her husband support a number of organizations focusing on children, health, education and Jewish life including the Bergen Family Center, the JCC on the Palisades, and the Women’s Rights Information Center, which helps women develop the skills needed for economic self-sufficiency. Ostfeld herself serves on several charitable boards, including the Center for Food Action, the Elisabeth Morrow School, and Columbia College. She and her children enjoy helping pack food with other young families to benefit the Weekend Snack Pack program. The food is given to children in need to ensure they have enough nutritious food over the weekend. “We celebrate Shabbat every Friday night and one of our traditions is to go around the table at dinner and everybody says a mitzvah they did that week,” Ostfeld said. “That’s a big part of our life and a critical part of our children’s spiritual education.” JWI Magazine |


KATHY RAFFA According to the American Institute of CPAs, women represent more than 50% of accounting graduates entering the profession for the last 20 years, but make up only 17% of the partners in accounting firms nationwide. But those statistics don’t compute when it comes to Kathy Raffa’s accounting firm. “We have 18 partners and 12 of them are women, pretty unheard of in the accounting world and especially among the top 100 firms in the country – of which we are one,” she says. Raffa, a CPA, is president, as well as owner and partner with her husband, Tom, of Raffa, a Washington, D.C. area firm which provides accounting, technology, tax and financial consulting services to more than 1,000 nonprofits ranging in size from large organizations like The Aspen Institute to small communitybased organizations. The firm also serves many socially conscious businesses. “A lot of nonprofits are in need of help to ensure that they are running effectively as a business,” says Raffa.


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“We help organizations to build a strong infrastructure to enable them to accomplish their missions.” Though in a field where figures are foremost, Raffa is passionate about having a positive impact both for the firm’s employees and in the larger world. Caring deeply about the personal and professional growth of her 300 employees is a hallmark of her leadership. She encourages employees to expand their skills by serving on nonprofit boards and helps them to “identify opportunities that are meaningful to them.” Having served on many boards herself, she recognizes that the experience is a way to build relationships, grow professionally and give back to the community. As the mother of three children, now grown, she is well-acquainted with the challenge of integrating

one’s personal life with work responsibilities. The firm offers a variety of flexible work arrangements including part-time, from home and even from a different country. “I have a tax manager in France, another manager in California and people who work 10 or 20 hours a week. We welcome and encourage that.” A few years ago Kathy emerged from a bout of breast cancer “thinking about how I could have a greater impact.” When she was invited by longtime client Vital Voices Global Partnership to take part in a retreat with their top 100 women leaders from around the world, working on such issues as sex trafficking and human rights for women and girls, she jumped at the chance. “They asked me to speak and help these women who are changing the world learn how to run their businesses more effectively. I spent four days there and it was one of my most humbling and inspiring experiences ever.” “You talk about hurdles, they have hurdles,” she said about the women she encountered. One young woman, an aviation professional in India, started a social business which crowdsources stories of sexual abuse and aggregates the data as hotspots on a map. In India, rapes occur every 20 minutes yet most aren’t reported due to the cultural stigma. She has collected over 10,000 stories from India and three other countries. “She enables women to break their silence, protect themselves and influence social change.” Now this woman and others are part of a pro bono business mentorship program that Raffa has created at her firm. Twenty-three of her firm’s staffers mentor women from 10 different countries, meeting by video conference once a month. Raffa also works with Vinnie Myers, a tattoo artist renowned for inking three dimensional nipples on women who have undergone post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. “I was sitting in his chair and he started telling me about how he wanted to help people who can’t afford reconstruction, to give them a sense of wholeness again,” Raffa says. “We started a nonprofit and now we’re on to the next steps to figure out how he can spread the good work that he does. ”

"THEY ASKED ME TO HELP THESE WOMEN LEARN HOW TO RUN THEIR BUSINESSES MORE EFFECTIVELY... IT WAS ONE OF MY MOST HUMBLING AND INSPIRING EXPERIENCES." Trying new things has always been part of Raffa's nature. While growing up in heavily Jewish Pikesville, Md., her father, a dentist, and her mom, a teacher, encouraged her to pursue a profession. Instead of choosing law and medicine like her brothers, she chose finance and accounting since she loved math and analysis, attending the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She met her future husband while working at PricewaterhouseCoopers. They envisioned founding their own firm, and in 1984, the same year they married, he left to start it. A few years later, when the firm had gotten off the ground, she joined him. Now, their son and two daughters are following in their parents’ footsteps by becoming entrepreneurs, albeit in the food industry. Raffa loves adventure, whether zipping down a ski slope in Utah, observing gorillas in Rwanda, or journeying to such places as Singapore, Thailand and India. She and her husband co-founded a company in India to help corporations connect with nonprofit organizations that they can help. “Travel opens up my eyes,” Raffa says. “I experience different cultures and learn from them and as a result I become a better person too.” JWI Magazine |


RABBI DANA SAROKEN A few years ago, when Rabbi Dana Saroken read the findings of a Pew Research study on Jewish identity and the results showing that more American Jews considered themselves spiritual than religious, she felt compelled to try to figure out what was happening. She began asking big questions: If so many Jews consider themselves to be more spiritual than religious, how they do they foster their sense of spirituality? What resources are synagogues and other Jewish institutions currently providing? How can the organized Jewish community, and synagogues, in particular, provide tools, resources, spiritual inspiration and learning to the vast majority of liberal Jews not currently finding religious life compelling? Saroken, 46, a rabbi at Beth El, a Conservative congregation in suburban Baltimore, engaged in hundreds of conversations seeking answers to these questions. That process led to the creation, in November 2016 of The Alvin & Lois Lapidus Center for Healing & Spirituality, a.k.a. The Soul Center.


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The Soul Center is a part of Beth El and also its own entity. Saroken and her core team made deliberate choices about the atmosphere they wanted to create. “Synagogues are often big and can make people feel small. We worked with a residential design team because we wanted the center to feel like a home. It’s so beautiful and peaceful that people will enter, pause, exhale and oftentimes ask if they have to leave after attending a program.” That response still makes Saroken and her team smile. “There is something that feels magical about it. Every detail was deliberately tended to in order to give people a space where they can just be instead of feeling overwhelmed in our crazy-busy, loud and hectic world.” One enters the Soul Center through a separate door, rather than through the synagogue, and everyone

who comes in is greeted personally. “You don’t need to get buzzed in or walk down long corridors,” Saroken says. “That was important because people want easy access and our external door conveys the message that everyone is welcome and they are.” The intent of the Soul Center is “to help people grow as human beings and as Jews, to strengthen people’s connection to themselves, G-d, and the Jewish people, and to provide Jewish inspiration and learning in creative and compelling ways.” Saroken says Programs are inspired by four pillars – mindfulness, growth, healing and rejuvenation. There are weekly Torah & yoga sessions and renewal walks led by one of the synagogue’s rabbis; monthly mixology tisches (tables) where adults unwind at the start of Shabbat with tips on mixing craft cocktails with shots of Torah in between; and cooking class dinner parties with guest chefs, where intriguing dishes mingle with servings of Jewish wisdom about character. Starting this fall, “The Braid,” a monthly challah make-and-take on Friday, will give parents and teens together time and a taste of Pirke Avot, the wisdom of our sages. Before Rosh Hashanah, the Soul Center holds a special selichot service on a hilltop. “In the dark of the night, around a fire with hot chocolate and s’mores and drums in hand, we’ll gather and go deep into the work of transformation,” she says. Healing programs at the center include services where people suffering from illnesses or struggling with loss come to share, pray and learn, and caregiver cafés that provide support and guidance.

"HAVING THE OPPORTUNITY TO WORK TO CREATIVELY ATTRACT AND GROW JEWISH SOULS WITH AN AMAZING GROUP OF PEOPLE – WHAT COULD BE MORE MEANINGFUL THAN THAT?" musical theater, dance, traveling and serving others. She studied in London during high school and in Israel during college and after graduation traveled around the world working as educational director for the musical and community service group “Up with People.” Later, working as Jewish Student Association director at Georgetown University awakened her desire to become a rabbi. She studied at yeshivot in Jerusalem and attended the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York for rabbinical school. “I love what I do,” Saroken says. “Being a rabbi in all of the traditional ways and then having the opportunity to work to creatively attract and grow Jewish souls with an amazing group of people – what could be more meaningful than that?”

“As a rabbi at a synagogue with over 1,700 families,” Saroken says, “I am often aware of gaps in our greater community and see, firsthand, where people are trying to endure difficult things on their own.

She has a son, 13, and two daughters, 11 and 9, and describes her husband Rafi Rone, who serves as program director for the Weinberg Foundation, as an “incredible partner, person and husband,” who shares her commitment to the Jewish people.

Growing up in Bedford Hills, N.Y., Saroken's mother taught her “how to engage with people and be inquisitive,” while her father taught her “how to show up for people reliably and wholeheartedly in their moments of need.” From childhood on, she approached life with verve and openness and was passionate about

“People are struggling to find a sense of centeredness in a world that can feel overwhelming,” Saroken says. “Judaism can give us the tools for balancing our lives and the guidance, wisdom and moral compass to navigate our complicated world. It can change lives. It changed mine.” JWI Magazine |


PAM SHERMAN In 2011, Pam Sherman was invited to speak to business leaders in Lebanon, Oman and Saudi Arabia. The prospect of traveling to the Arab world might have made most Jewish women hesitate (and certainly made her mother anxious), but not Sherman. As the founder of Business Advantage, she has brought her EDGE™ Leadership, Communications and Business Development Programs around the world, coaching leaders – many of them women – to share their story and their vision in a way that ignites passion for their mission. A compelling conference keynoter, Sherman also develops group and individual communications programs for organizations and companies. Growing up on Staten Island, the daughter of an OBGyn father and psychotherapist mother, Sherman, 55, dreamed of becoming an actor. “In my family being an actor was akin to being an ax murderer so I went to law school instead,” she says laughing. Graduating from American University and the Benjamin


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When her firm closed, she returned full-time to acting, and performed in theater, film, and television, including NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Streets and in the play Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center. People magazine even wrote about her unconventional career leap. Sherman branched into playwriting, collaborating on Pumping Josey: Life and Death in Suburbia, a one-woman show in which she played 10 women whose bravery inspired her, including Jewish hero Hannah Senesh and friend Randi Waxman, an attorney, professor and philanthropist who died prematurely. (Sherman will return to the stage in 2018 in a one-woman show about another of her heroes, columnist Erma Bombeck.)

photo by Brandon Vick

N. Cardozo School of Law, she worked at a law firm in Washington, D.C., but acted part-time, running “from auditions to depositions.”

Fifteen years ago, Sherman’s husband, Neal, decided to relocate their restaurant facilities and equipment business to Rochester, N.Y. “I was very cranky about moving to suburban upstate New York, thinking I had left the center of the universe, Washington D.C.,” she says. But then, as possibilities emerged, she realized that by “moving to a smaller place I actually have a bigger world.” In 2005, she accepted an offer to write a column in Rochester Magazine which she called “The Suburban Outlaw.” It became so popular that it is now nationally syndicated by Gannett. As she explains in the introduction to a book-length collection of her touching and ironic columns, a “suburban outlaw has an edge in the best possible way: the ability to explore, dream, grow and excite.” Appreciating her outlaw self has helped Sherman recognize and inspire that quality in others. Drawing on her business background as an attorney and her acting talents, she founded her communications firm. Companies such as Bausch + Lomb, Kodak and University of Rochester Medical Center soon asked her to help their current and aspiring leaders achieve their potential and further the company’s work by teaching them how to make compelling presentations enhanced with authentic, from-the-heart storytelling. “You can’t build a company, organization or nonprofit without emotionally connected followers,” she says. “How do you connect to them? You meet their needs, address their concerns, share your heart.” She is especially dedicated to working with women. “One of the biggest issues in corporate America is building women’s presence in leadership,” she notes. “We know that companies with more women have a greater ROI [return on investment]. Helping women rise in the corporate world, find their voice and articulate a career vision, is one of my passions.” Sherman, who has a son and a daughter, both in college, sees leadership as more than becoming a CEO or the president of a company.

"IT CAN BE THE ORDINARY WOMAN... WHO MAKES A BETTER LIFE FOR HER FAMILY BECAUSE OF THE WORK THAT SHE DOES AND HOW SHE CONTRIBUTES TO HER HOUSEHOLD." “It can be the ordinary woman who makes a difference in her children’s classroom, who makes a better life for her family because of the work that she does and how she contributes to her household. She has the ability to balance having her children follow their dreams while she is somehow figuring out how to follow her own.” Sherman is herself deeply involved in making a difference in Rochester, one of the poorest cities in the nation. She supports a number of local groups and many have asked her to serve as an emcee for their fund-raising events. She and her husband of 33 years, whom she calls her “champion and biggest cheerleader,” have focused a significant portion of their philanthropy and advocacy on two projects: the Young Women’s College Prep Charter School, founded by 2016 Woman to Watch Laura Rebell Gross, and the Center for Youth, a shelter for homeless teens. Whether speaking to teen girls, working with the leaders of nonprofits, or addressing business people at home or abroad, Sherman weaves together an infectious brew of humor, insight and inspiration. “When you follow your dreams and make them work for your real life,” she says, “that’s when you have the greatest impact in the world.” JWI Magazine |


SHELLEY ZALIS Shelley Zalis believes that equality is not a female issue, it’s a social and economic imperative. Zalis, 55, the L.A.-based CEO of The Female Quotient and founder of the Girls’ Lounge, works to empower individuals and companies to champion diversity and equality in order to create more successful business outcomes. “I’m in the business of equality,” she says. “We say that diversity is good for business, yet we’ve gone backwards and have not created progress.” The World Economic Forum ranks gender equality in 144 countries and in the the last two years, Zalis notes, the U.S. has dropped from 28th to 45th. “We have been admiring the problem and have not created accountability for change, nor next-step solutions,” she says of the lack of progress. “We think it’s going to happen in one fell swoop which is not the case. We have been using textbook scenarios that do not work today.”


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That’s where The Female Quotient and the Girls’ Lounge, come in. The Girls’ Lounge is an “experiential pop-up” where corporate women attending industry conferences gather to connect, collaborate and activate change together. The setting is usually a hotel penthouse or other congenial space and features confidence coaching, relationship building and authentic unplugged conversations. Since it debuted five years ago, Zalis estimates that upwards of 17,000 women have connected through the Girls’ Lounge at such gatherings as the World Economic Forum in Davos, the Cannes Lions Festival and the Consumer Electronics Show. “The Girls’ Lounge is a very personal journey for me,” Zalis says. “I’m giving back what I wish I had rising in the ranks.”

Calling it “Girls’” Lounge was very deliberate, she explains. “I want to reclaim the word ‘girl’ as a mindset. It’s about being bold, brave and fearless, about being girlfriends and supporting one another. There’s a boys’ club. Why can’t there be a girls’ lounge, a real place for women to connect and collaborate and to encourage women to bring their feminine qualities into the workplace?” A second aspect of The Female Quotient’s work is to change workplace culture. Zalis seeks to “reimagine workplace rules for the modern workforce or break the rules to create new ones.” She runs boot camps inside of Fortune 500 companies to help them become “equality fit.” She has also created The Modern Guide to Equality, a toolkit to help companies close the wage gap and eliminate bias in hiring. A veteran of the corporate world, Zalis found that the rules didn’t work for her, “as a Jewish mother, as someone who wanted to have a successful career but also a successful family.” What’s more, her ideas were often not embraced in meetings. “I knew I always thought differently, but I was never right” she says, asking, “Why can’t I be right? Why can’t I bring the feminine perspective to business?” In 2000, Zalis founded OTX (Online Testing Exchange), a pioneering online research company that flourished. The first female chief executive for a company ranked in the research industry’s top 25, she brought feminine leadership qualities to the boardroom. “As a CEO, I created a company that I wanted to work for,” she says. “I had a high attraction and retention rate because I created a company that allowed people to have a life including a career.” She sold OTX seven years ago, and now pursues fulltime her passion to advance women’s equality in the workplace. In addition to running The Female Quotient, she hosts a show on Bloomberg TV called Walk the Talk, where she works with leaders to advance equality within their corporations. She also writes a column five times a month for Forbes called “The

"AS A CEO, I CREATED A COMPANY THAT I WANTED TO WORK FOR. I HAD A HIGH ATTRACTION AND RETENTION RATE BECAUSE WE ALLOWED PEOPLE TO HAVE A LIFE, INCLUDING A CAREER." Messy Middle,” in which she gives women tips about how to rise from middle management to leadership. Zalis also co-created #SeeHer, a movement challenging the entertainment and advertising industries to accurately portray women and girls in the media, so that by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women’s vote, “they see themselves reflected as they truly are.” She and her husband, Phil, a surgeon, have three children. She grew up in Los Angeles, one of four sisters who are her best friends, and attended Barnard College. She remains close to her parents, the “anchors” of her life. It was from her dad, a physician, that she learned to be adventurous. The family chases eclipses around the world; in August, 22 family members congregated in Yellowstone for the total solar eclipse. Her mother, Zalis says, “is probably the most influential and inspirational person I know. She made us believe that we could be anything that we could imagine.” Her mother has been involved in many causes and has founded several organizations, from the Golda Meir Club to the first conference for women in the state of California for Governor Pete Wilson. At 16, Zalis looked around at the 3,000 participants gathered there to advance women’s rights and realized, “If my mom could do it, I could do it.” JWI Magazine |



COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP HONOREE “If I wasn’t a builder, I think I would have ended up in the nonprofit world,” says Mimi Brodsky Kress. Indeed, Kress, JWI’s 2017 Sondra D. Bender Community Leader, has had an outsized impact on an array of non-profit organizations in the Washington area, at the same time as she has forged a highly successful career in the building industry. A third-generation Washingtonian, she is the co-owner and COO of Sandy Spring Builders, a custom home builder based in Bethesda, Md. After their family experienced struggles with mental health issues, she and her husband worked to educate others about how to navigate the mental health care system. They took a Family-to-Family class at NAMIMC (National Alliance on Mental Illness of Montgomery County). “Before the class was over I was asked to be on their board of directors,” says Kress, “and two years ago I was asked to be president of the board.” She feels that she has “helped shape the organization into a


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From an early age, Kress saw her family members deeply involved in community organizations. Her mother Lois Badt Brodsky (now almost 90) and grandmother, Jennie Yudelevit Badt were both strong, independent women who worked diligently for the Hebrew Home and other organizations. Her late dad, builder Albert Brodsky, led by example and was deeply committed to such causes as JSSA, Israel Bonds and the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and would often take his daughter along on his volunteer activities.

photo by MBK Photography


true community leader in mental health awareness in our county” and often makes presentations to students in both public and private schools on suicide prevention and ending the silence about mental illness.

Kress continues the family tradition of supporting organizations benefitting Jewish causes and Israel. She is the incoming co-chair for the D.C. BBYO board. “My daughter was very active as a high schooler in BBYO and it had a lot to do with making her the leader she is today,” Kress says. The co-chair of the local JNF Women for Israel campaign, Kress is a longtime member of the organization’s Sapphire Society. Active in Israel Bonds for 25 years, she also has been involved with JSSA, which honored her several years ago, with JWI, her synagogue, and other organizations. And, for the past decade, she has been dedicated to Habitat for Humanity, believing deeply in its mission to help low-income individuals achieve home ownership. Each May, for the past several years, she has captained a team of 10 women for Women Build, an initiative that raises funds for Habitat and gives women a chance to learn construction skills while helping families in their community. “My community involvement is incredibly fulfilling and a very important part of my life,” Kress says. “My family knows that. My business partner knows that. My business associates know that. It’s just part of who I am.” Kress describes herself as a “take charge person,” and she needs to be. Sandy Spring has 45 employees and builds roughly 15 custom homes and a dozen major renovations annually. Kress oversees acquisitions, contracts, and the company’s administration and finance. She also runs Brodsky Group, a family business where she built warehouses with her late brother, Joel, and manages them with her brother, Neil. Kress learned the building business from the ground up. She attended Colby, a liberal arts college in Maine, but after graduation wasn’t sure what career direction to take. Her dad encouraged her to explore the building industry by undertaking an apprenticeship program. She fell in love with the field and was soon out on job sites in a hard hat working as an assistant superintendent. She worked with a couple of other companies before joining forces with her partner Phil Leibovitz at Sandy Spring in 1997.

"YOU NEED TO HAVE CONFIDENCE IN WHAT YOU KNOW AND NOT LET THE FACT THAT MOSTLY MEN ARE IN THE BUSINESS STOP YOU FROM DOING WHAT YOU LOVE AND WHAT YOU WANT TO DO." “It was a very male-dominated field in the 1980s. It still is, though there are many more women now than when I started,” she says. “It was something I had to learn to deal with. You need to have confidence in what you know and not let the fact that mostly men are in the business stop you from doing what you love and what you want to do.” COO. Business owner. Volunteer leader. Mom. Wife. Somehow Kress manages to do it all. “Having boundaries is really important,” she notes. “Life is short. You need to have time for yourself and your family.” It helps that her husband, Michael Kress, a photographer who annually shoots dozens of events, including many for non-profit organizations such as JWI, shares her values. “He gives back to the community through his work,” she says. And their children Max (27) and Jenna (22) are also committed to helping others in the community. “I’m sure it’s not easy being married to someone who likes to do everything for everybody,” she says, laughing. “But I think we’ve struck a very good balance.” “It can be stressful, but I love what I do in my work and volunteering. It’s different every day.” JWI Magazine |


Standing Up, Speaking Out here are moments when you feel as though you are in the right place at the right time – when everything you have learned and experienced and accomplished in life has prepared you to be part of the change. Call it the hineni moment – that when called we answer “here we are" – but this is exactly where Jewish Women International finds itself today.

Our legacy of inspired Jewish women’s leadership, of being the leading Jewish voice working to end violence against all women and girls, of fighting so that all women have access to long-term economic security, of working with students so that our campuses are safe, of building harbors for the youngest victims of violence, and of mentoring the next generation of women leaders – this is what we draw upon now. This work is the source of our strength. For those readers for whom this is your introduction to JWI, we were founded 120 years ago as B’nai B’rith Women. Always a progressive women’s organization, BBW was the first Jewish organization to support the Equal Rights Amendment. In the 1980s, one of our members was shot and killed by her husband and our mission became focused on ending violence against all women and girls. Our approach is pre-


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ventative and holistic, branching from our three pillars of ending violence; ensuring financial literacy; and empowering and spotlighting women’s leadership.

Ending Violence Like our founding members did, thousands of JWI supporters participated in women’s marches across the country this past January. In D.C., at the site of the main march, JWI partnered with the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue for Shabbat services and workshops. I had the wonderful opportunity to lead the day’s final workshop, teaching attendees how to harness the inspiration gleaned from the day to make a difference. We had already planned to expand our civic engagement program created last summer under the banner “Vote Like A Girl”– encouraging young women to educate themselves around issues critical to women and girls that would inform their vote. But the power of the diversity of women’s voices rising together, speaking out on issues that have been our issues for decades, let us know we were on the right track. So this past year, JWI has created local and national events – from private briefings to advocacy days – putting women face to face with lawmakers to speak out about dangerous loopholes in guns laws; about access to reproductive health; about pay equity; and about provisions that will make our campuses safer for all students.

We now begin each week with our 3-2-1 Action email, giving readers three easy actions to take on issues that threaten the ability of women to thrive. A nod to the stressful nature of these times is given in the final “Just for you” item on each email that makes a suggestion for self-care – from taking a walk through sunflower fields to baking a peach cobbler – we need to share ways to focus on what is good in the world. Our advocacy work expands to other faith organizations through JWI’s Interfaith Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Under JWI’s leadership, this coalition of 40 faith groups works together on behalf of unifying issues including the introduction and passage of the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) and ending gun violence. As a respected voice on Capitol Hill, JWI is proud to be at the helm of the Engaging Men as Allies taskforce for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. JWI was a leader in rallying the Jewish community at the last VAWA reauthorization. This time, it is our unique expertise working with men in the quest to end violence that is being called upon. Our work with men is one way JWI is different from other groups working to end sexual assault and domestic violence. We are proud to be the education and philanthropic partner of the Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT) national fraternity. Our work with ZBT and our other philanthropic partner, Sigma Delta Tau (SDT) sorority, led to the creation of the award-winning Safe Smart Dating workshop. Safe, Smart Dating is the first co-ed, peer-led healthy relation-

ship and bystander intervention workshop created specifically for the campus Greek community. This interactive workshop allows space for young men and women to come together to better understand what is and is not a healthy relationship. It shows them how to spot warning signs and know how to help when a friend is in either an unhealthy relationship or a potentially dangerous situation. This past year, Safe Smart Dating was held on 13 campuses throughout the country, including Cornell, UCLA, University of Kansas and Rutgers. And, this summer, Green Light, Go!, the event ZBT chapters host on campus to raise awareness around consent, was honored with the Laurel Wreath award for outstanding work in the fraternal world. Safe Smart Dating had previously been honored with a Laurel Wreath.

Orthodox Jewish community. Our Boy to Mentsch workshops for fathers and sons in the Baltimore Orthodox community was recognized by the Slingshot Fund as one of the most innovative in the Jewish world. And, the world renowned acapella group, the Maccabeats, contributed a song to raise awareness of our important Get Smart series – hoping to end get abuse by normalizing the signing of the halachic pre-nuptial agreement.

Economic Security

Our work on campus extends beyond fraternities and sororities. Our Change the Culture programs allow students to lead critical discussions on campus on topics such as the importance of the language we use that can create a culture of violence. Change the Culture is being brought to ten campuses this coming year thanks to grants from the Jewish Women’s Foundation of New York; the Jewish Women’s Fund of Atlanta; the Dept. of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women; and the Mt. Sinai Community Foundation. We are recognized as a thought leader for our innovative work in the

Understanding the dangerous connection between domestic violence and financial abuse, and that women with resources have more options to secure their safety, JWI is committed to educating women of all ages about financial literacy. Our Life$avings workshops are hosted by SDT chapters and open to all women on campus. JCCs, synagogues and community groups bring JWI to their communities to teach workshops for mothers and teens as well as women approaching retirement. And each of our four Young Women’s Leadership Network groups (D.C., N.Y., Denver and L.A.) cycle financial literacy workshops throughout their yearly offerings. And this year, JWI created special workbooks, made specifically for the women who live in the shelters that receive our Mother’s Day Flower Project bouquets. These workbooks help the women better understand the budgeting process and give them foundational tools to rebuild safe homes for themselves and their children.

National Library Initiative Our work with survivors of violence is not limited to Mother’s Day. JWI is committed to building children’s libraries in domestic violence shelters across the country. In these comforting spaces, these shelters within shelters, the youngest victims of violence can find resources to keep up with their disrupted schooling as well as brand-new books that allow them to escape through the adventures on the pages. These libraries are restocked annually as children are encouraged to take favorite books with them as they leave the shelter. JWI is excited to announce that we will be cutting the ribbons on six new libraries in the upcoming year – taking us to 70 libraries toward our goal of 100 nationwide.

Women’s Leadership Which brings us to Women to Watch. This gala event is the foundation of our work – the importance of shining the light on women leaders – of celebrating our voice and our work and the power that comes when we help one another. Our Young Women’s Leadership Networks, the Young Women’s Leadership Conference, and our 1-On1 mentoring partnerships are outgrowths of Women to Watch as we responded to requests from both the role models and the women just starting their careers, to learn from each other. This is the power of JWI. We not only continue in the footsteps of the women who came before. We pave the way for women to follow. Lori Weinstein is the CEO of JWI.

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FROM ONE WOMAN TO ANOTHER JWI is cultivating the next generation of women leaders.

Five years ago, the Young Women’s Leadership Network was established in memory of Sondra D. Bender, an inspiring community leader, who dedicated her life to the spectrum of causes within the Jewish communal world. The dream was to create a pipeline of future women leaders, women much like Sondra, who would leave the world and their community better. The fit was natural. JWI has as its most valuable resource a wealth of women role models. For each of the past 17 years, JWI has recognized 10 incredible women from a diversity of professions – scientists, politicians, CEOs, entrepreneurs, writers – 170 women at the pinnacle of their respective fields. We asked ourselves, what if we were able to take those women and put them in front of young women, women in their 20s and 30s, who were just starting their careers? What if we not only connected two generations, but also built a community of peers in the process? Creating opportunities for them to add their voices to issues they care about? Literally pulling up a seat at every table for a young woman eager to lead? What kind of women would it attract? Five years later, we know what that dream becomes. It becomes the Young Women’s Leadership Network. Something powerful happens when women get together. Together, we build communities, create change, and support one another so that individually we become our best selves. This is the power that fuels JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network. 26

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Led by National Manager Sasha Altschuler, the Young Women’s Leadership Network brings together young women in D.C., New York, Denver, and L.A. (launched this spring with support from the Jewish Venture Philanthropy Fund) for monthly workshops with accomplished Jewish women role models. The Network’s four local boards help create close to 50 events each year for more than 1,000 young women. Events cover the spectrum from career advice from Google staff to entrepreneurial inspiration from an attorney-turned-bakery owner. And each spring, members of the local boards come together for a retreat to share best practices, deepen friendships, and create a national network.

This past year, following the excitement of JWI’s Vote Like A Girl initiative, each Network held a series of advocacy workshops. These culminated in the Network’s first ever national advocacy day. Close to 100 young women from across the country participated in meetings on Capitol Hill with representatives and senators from both parties to talk about pay equity, gun violence, and safe campuses. For many, this was the first time meeting with legislators and feeling the power of their collective voice. But whether the young women are advocating for change, learning how to negotiate a higher salary, or baking challah, they are building a large and engaged community of leaders. The highlight of the Network's year is the Young Women’s Leadership Conference, held the day before JWI’s Women to Watch gala luncheon and sponsored by the Sondra D. Bender Leadership Institute at JWI. Hun-

dreds of young women spend a day learning with and from other women. “It’s incredible how one afternoon can change your life for the better. This was not your average women’s conference; this was five hours that opened my eyes to endless opportunities not only for myself, but also for all the Jewish women around me,” wrote Alyce Blum, a member of JWI’s Denver Network board, who attended last year. The Young Women’s Leadership Conference offers Jewish women in their 20s and 30s the opportunity to attend panel discussions, workshops, and small group networking sessions with current and former Women to Watch honorees. Like the Women to Watch Up Close & Personal Symposium, the Conference begins with a panel of accomplished women role models in a moderated conversation covering a range of timely topics. Last year’s panel shared thoughts on how young women can ready themselves to be the voices of the future and a voice for our community.

photo by Rachel Borkow

Following the panel, attendees select two breakout sessions, each featuring a panel of amazing women mentors sharing both personal and professional advice from their years of experience. A "speed networking" session follows, allowing the young women to travel in more intimate groups to speak personally to the mentors. The day ends with an informal wine, cheese, and

dessert reception – a perfect end to a perfect day. This day of connection for both generations of women inspired JWI to create an ongoing 1-On-1 mentorship program, connecting young women

and mentees at the conference. Mentees are chosen based on the available mentors, as special attention is paid to thoughtfully pairing role models with experience that directly relates to the mentee’s field. While the conference and monthly workshops are open to all Jewish women in their 20s and 30s, the 1-On-1 Mentorship program is only available to members of the Young Women’s Leadership Network. We hope you'll join us at the most inspiring conference of the year: From generation to generation, experience what happens when women learn from and with each other. To register go to Email Sasha at to learn more.

at the beginning of their careers with women who can serve as role models and mentors. JWI will open applications for the second cohort of mentors

Supporting JWI's work to build the next generation of women leaders! Learn more at JWI Magazine |



“Why are you pulling her out of school for a luncheon?” my mom asked incredulously when I told her I had bought my then-teenaged daughter a ticket to join me at JWI’s Women to Watch luncheon. Though it’s rare that I know better than my mother about anything, in this case, I knew exactly what I was doing. After all, I had been to Women to Watch many times over the years. This was not your typical luncheon. I so clearly remember my first Women to Watch in 2006, when my friend, Rabbi Sue Shankman, was honored with the Community Leadership Award (now named after philanthropist Sondra D. Bender). I had not heard of JWI or Women to Watch, but was quite active on the Jewish women’s organization luncheon circuit. I had assumed it would be another lovely afternoon – schmoozing with friends and picking at a bland chicken breast while some famous Jewish woman made a speech. Instead, as I approached the registration desk, I saw tables displaying information about “Strong Girls” and “Good Guys” – programs talking to teens about healthy relationships. I saw a life-size model of a children’s library, giving attendees a glimpse into the libraries JWI builds in domestic violence shelters across the country. I learned about JWI’s “Life$avings” work, empowering women of all ages with financial literacy. I hadn’t realized the devastating connection between domestic violence and financial abuse, nor had I grasped that a woman who understands and controls her budget controls her future. I remember thinking, “I need to learn more. I need to talk to my children about healthy relationships.”

I had arrived early enough to hear the “Up Close and Personal Symposium,” an intimate session with all ten honorees sitting onstage in conversation. (In later years, when I was editor-in-chief of the Washington Jewish Week, I would be fortunate enough to moderate this discussion.) Tears welled as I struggled to write every word they said on the margins of the only piece of paper I could find in my purse. I wanted to remember everything these funny, wise, warm women were saying. The symposium was over too quickly; I could have listened to them speak and share for hours. Then it was time for the luncheon to begin. The room was gorgeous, of course: A grand ballroom overflowing with flowers and beautifully-dressed guests. But then the lights dimmed and one after another, the honorees were introduced and delivered their “Pearls of Wisdom.” Although each of the women was highly accomplished, these were not lists of achievements lifted from their resumés. These “pearls” were gems – small gifts of inspiration. The atmosphere changed. The flowers and food and all the loveliness faded away, while these women and their words filled the room with inspiration that touched every last guest. Each year there is a moment when the room becomes silent. A woman walks to the microphone to share her painful story. Some years she is a college student, some years a mother, but she is always a survivor, and through her story, we begin to understand the importance of JWI’s mission to end violence against all women and girls. Eleven years and 110 Women to Watch later, I think I’ve figured out what makes this event so special. Unlike other gala luncheons, the speakers aren’t celebrities – they’re real women, who care enough to change the world in ways big and small. In a year when Wonder Woman is a global

photos by MBK Photography

Meredith Jacobs facilitates the Up Close & Personal Honoree Symposium at the 2015 Women to Watch Awards Gala


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blockbuster, these women are heroes without superpowers. Actually, their superpower is being able to look at the world, see a need, and do what they can to help. Having now had the privilege to work directly with the honorees as part of the JWI staff, I can attest that each year, each and every honoree at one point says to me, “Who am I to be honored? What have I done?” That humility not only makes them special, but truly allows those in the room to recognize their own potential to become leaders and create change in the world. Ellen Stone is just one example of the kind of women we honor each year. The chief marketing officer for Bravo Network, Stone is now vice chair of JWI’s board of trustees. I asked her what it was like on her end: What was it like being a Woman to Watch, and why did that honor lead to deeper engagement with the organization? She told me, “It was an honor to be a 2011 Woman to Watch along with many women who are not only leaders in their industry but serve as role models for others. In fact, through the organization I’ve met many smart, dedicated and accomplished women who are amazing leaders in all aspects of their lives, from business to personal and family. "I was drawn to the sense of community that JWI creates, supporting women and girls through programs that address financial literacy, domestic violence, and providing support for young professional women through mentorship. When asked to join the board I jumped at the opportunity to take a more active role in this organization during a time when women need to support and celebrate each other more than ever.” This is the great gift of Women to Watch – the inspiration from amazing women role models to do more, be better. And my daughter? As we drove home from the luncheon, she turned to me and said, “Mom, I want to be a senator.” As inspired as I was, it was seeing a spark ignited in her – a realization that she could do and be anything – that made this event worth far more than I had paid for her ticket. Being inspired by Jewish women leaders was something she never would experience at school. Six years later, she’s in college, an English major with no plans in the immediate future to run for political office. But she raises her hand each and every day. She does not shrink from opportunities to lead. She embodies the question, “Why not me?” Even more so, that feeling of “Of course me” has stayed with her and grown. The unquestioning knowledge that women lead and the work we do makes the world better – that fire was lit at Women to Watch. They say you can’t be what you can’t see. Come to Women to Watch and see. Meredith Jacobs is the vice president of marketing at JWI.

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Honoring Joanie JWI proudly announces the Joan Margolius Cherner Mother's Day Fund oanie Margolius Cherner was a hard-working mom who raised two sons; a devoted aunt and a loving grandmother to five. Fun-loving and beautiful, she made friends easily and kept them for a lifetime because of her thoughtfulness, warmth, and magnetic personality.

Jennifer Margolius Fisher describes her beloved Aunt Joanie. After Fisher’s mother died, Aunt Joanie stepped in to fill the void, becoming surrogate mom to Fisher and grand-

mother to her children. “I don’t think I’m the only person she mothered,” Fisher adds. “And I don’t think that I’m the only one she protected. She was the person to show up with flowers or send cards or become the fabric in someone’s life. And that’s what JWI's Flower Project does: It puts the fabric of people’s lives back together.” “It seems like a simple gesture, but it has a powerful impact,” explains JWI CEO Lori Weinstein. “For survivors living in a shelter, Mother’s Day is often very difficult. So many of these

When she died of cancer this past June at age 74, her family felt the loss deeply and decided they wanted to do something to remember her and continue her legacy of caring. They have created the Joan Margolius Cherner Mother’s Day Fund to support and enhance JWI’s Mother’s Day Flower Project. “Joanie loved Mother’s Day,” explains her brother, Phil Margolius. “JWI’s Flower Project fits her perfectly. The thought that this makes other people happy, she would love that. It just seemed to fit her.” Each Mother’s Day, as JWI supporters make donations in honor of the special women in their lives, JWI uses the proceeds to send flowers and financial literacy materials to 200 domestic violence shelters nationwide. This spring, the Mother’s Day Flower Project will celebrate its 20th anniversary. “You know how most people say, after a tragedy, that they’ll be there for you? And they say it to be kind and with the best of intentions, but nothing comes of it. Well, Joanie never said it. She just showed up.” That’s how 30

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Above: Joanie and the Margolius family, (left) and at her grandson's bar mitzvah (right) Below: Joanie with her brothers, Alan (left) and Philip (right) Opposite page: Joanie with her husband, Jerry Cherner

women have either never received flowers or only have been given flowers as an apology for an act of violence. Our flowers let them know that we're thinking of them and rooting for them to succeed in rebuilding safe homes for themselves and their children.” The flowers are accompanied by financial literacy resources developed by JWI staff in response to requests from the shelters. Almost all victims of domestic violence have also been subjected to financial abuse. The Flower Project’s financial literacy component helps survivors learn the

plans for expansion include creating more resources for children to participate in Mother’s Day celebrations; arranging opportunities for JWI volunteers to host Mother’s Day events at the shelters; and developing additional resources to build economic literacy and skills for women at this important juncture in their lives. Both Phil Margolius and Joanie’s younger brother Alan remember their vibrant and beautiful sister as always surrounded by friends. A cheerleader, she was active in Iota Gamma Phi and Alpha Beta Gamma – Jewish high school sororities. Joanie joined the AEPhi sorority while a student at the University of Maryland, and that was where she met her first husband, Stanley, who was in the fraternity SAM. Together they had two sons and five grandchildren. “The house was always filled with her friends,” they both recall. “With other people, friends come and go. But not Joanie. She added friends along the way, but never lost one.”

basics to guide them toward economic independence and security. “Yet as incredible as the project is,” continues Weinstein, “there is still so much that we would like to do to strengthen both the celebration and the resources that we create. We are enormously grateful to the Margolius family for establishing the Joan Margolius Cherner Mother’s Day Fund. As the Flower Project enters its third decade, it will enable us to do so much more for these at-risk mothers and their children.”

“She collected friends,” echoes Francine Levinson, a childhood friend who later became family when Joanie married Jerry Cherner. “She was just a good person. And everyone was her friend. But she cared about her family the most. If her brothers or children or grandchildren did something, it

was the best. There was nothing they could do that was wrong.” “It’s a cliché to say someone was a giver, but she was,” recalls her oldest son, Billy Karlin, noting that while in hospice, his mother worried more about how he was feeling than her own situation. At the same time Joan was raising him and his brother Michael, Karlin remembers that his mother worked hard in order to give her children a comfortable life. She loved working and made lifelong friends through work relationships. Her love for her grandchildren was legendary in the family. Toward the end of his mother’s life, Karlin remembers asking his son, now 23, if he had spoken to his grandmother. His son replied, “I talk to her every day.” That’s the kind of relationship they had. Karlin believes his mother would have been thrilled that her family was keeping her memory alive through JWI’s Mother’s Day Flower Project. “I think that for most women, when they get something like roses, they are happy. It puts a smile on their face and makes them feel loved,” he says. “That was what my mom did. She would smile and be with you and make you feel happy. Now, this is like her coming in to be with women who need a smile.”

In addition to increasing the number of shelters that receive JWI's flowers,

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JWI Magazine Fall 2017  

JWI again honors 10 incredible Jewish women role models who are making a measurable difference in the world.

JWI Magazine Fall 2017  

JWI again honors 10 incredible Jewish women role models who are making a measurable difference in the world.