Because of the Women Who Came Before Me
For the last 15 years my life has been devoted to social justice work, tikkun olam, an important tenet of Reform Judaism. There were so many women who played an important part in my life in the Reform Movement that my being a woman was just a given. This was not the case in the late 1960s, when I was forging my way to become one of the first women international banking officers. At that time, I had no role models.
When I became involved in social justice issues, I had the guidance and support of women rabbis from my first involvement in the region with Rabbi Julie Spitzer, zichronah livracha. She was my mentor, and she made sure I became a member of the Commission on Social Action. This national position is one I still hold. Women have been leaders of the Commission for many years, so my taking a leadership position was again a given.
In the mid 1990s, it was Rabbi Karen Bender in my own congregation at the time, Temple Beth-El of Great Neck, who encouraged me to take the next steps in making tikkun olam an integral part of the congregant’s lives. We started Mitzvah Day at the synagogue and had over 500 participants. Yes, we were two women, but the participants were men, women and children.”
When so many important social and economic issues devolved to the states, it was again a woman, this time in Albany, who took action. Ten years ago, Arleen Urell reached out to a group of people throughout the state to establish the Reform Jewish Voice of New York State. Today, I am privileged to be a co-chair of this organization with a wonderful rabbi, Jennifer Jaech.
The contributions I have been able to make to the Reform Movement have been possible because of the women who came before me, and I look forward to seeing more women in the most important roles in our Movement.