One of the first movies I saw was The Ten Commandments, with Charlton Heston playing the larger-than life-hero, Moses. I sat with my grandparents watching in awe the many miraculous feats he performed and how he almost singlehandedly gained freedom for his people from the hands of Pharaoh.
What makes someone a hero - and are they the only ones deserving of our recognition? What about the unsung heroes who play a vital role behind the scenes?
This week's Torah portion, Sh'mot, tells us of the courageous, thoughtful and strong women who didn't receive top billing but who were instrumental in creating the conditions that allowed Moses to survive, grow and emerge as a leader. Moses would not have survived birth if not for the courage of two midwives, Shifra and Puah, who defied Pharaoh's orders to kill all male Hebrew babies. His mother, Yocheved, risked everything by hiding him and placing him in a basket in the reeds, hoping that he would be found and saved. His sister Miriam risked her own life to track the infant, and when Pharaoh's daughter found Moses, Miriam convinced her to return him to Yocheved for feeding. Pharoah's daughter herself finally adopted and nurtured Moses, creating the pathway for his rise to power and influence.
This portion reminds us of the power of women: their strength, resilience and courage. It's time to give them the recognition they deserve. Federation could not accomplish its goals without the vision, support and commitment of the women of our community. Women occupy key roles as professionals and lay leaders, conceiving and executing initiatives that bring positive change to our community and to the lives of so many here at home and around the world. Without the commitment and generosity of women, we would not raise sufficient funds to meet the critical needs of our community. Hundreds of young children would not receive free Jewish books each month from PJ Library. There would be no Jewish Leadership Academy to develop our current and future leaders. Many of the most vital services provided by Federation's community partners - feeding the hungry, clothing those in need, educating our children, to name a few - would be terribly diminished without women's leadership.
The women of our community live with intention and want to make a difference. And what a difference they make! At Federation, women are advocating for Israel, for tolerance, and for civil discourse through the Jewish Community Relations Council. They are forging connections with homebound Jewish seniors through our new Caring Community program. And they are helping at-risk students improve their literacy through Children's Reading Partners. They do all this while balancing multiple roles in business, family and the community.
We are so grateful for our women professionals, lay leaders and donors. They truly are our modern day heroes.
President and CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford