What inspired you to get involved in our Jewish community?
I moved to West Hartford 10 years ago from Springfield, Massachusetts. But even before I moved here, I was part of the Greater Hartford Jewish community. In 1996, I served as the founding board chair of the Hebrew High School of New England (now New England Jewish Academy). During the building of the school, I worked closely with Federation, the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Hartford, and local synagogues. Fifteen years later, with all three of our children attending the Hebrew high school, my husband Jeremy and I decided to move here. Our entire family had grown to love this community.
I’ve always been a Jewish community activist, so it was pretty much a given that I’d become more involved once we moved. At that time, I was the immediate past chair of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, a past board chair of the Hebrew high school, and incoming chair of Jewish Federations of North America’s National Women’s Philanthropy Board. I have had the opportunity to travel the world on behalf of JFNA, and I’ve worked with dozens of Jewish Federations across North America – and I always come home in awe of how great the Hartford Jewish community and our Federation are. Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford is one of the most innovative, inclusive, smart, and forward-thinking in the country. It is so fun to be involved here!
What have you done to make a positive impact and what is your proudest accomplishment?
Back when I was just starting my volunteer leadership career, I heard the following quote: “The sign of a good leader is someone who replaces her/himself with someone even better.” I take that quote to heart in everything I do — and with every leadership position I accept. I focus on my board and the professional team of any given organization in order to provide them every opportunity to be a leadership partner and feel heard and listened to. I like to provide people with opportunities to shine and take risks. Even before I get started, I think of the future: who will lead this organization after me and help it take its next steps forward?
My greatest accomplishment has been my ability to inspire, mentor, and empower others — especially women — helping them lead and make the world a better place. Helping to populate a pipeline of Jewish leaders is where I’ve made a significant positive impact. I watch so many people I’ve worked with take on big positions and I feel so proud; I feel like everyone’s mother.
What was your biggest challenge?
Leadership is always a challenge. Another leadership quote I love is, “Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” There will always be “uncalm” seas in any organization — I’ve personally experienced my fair share. There are two challenges that often pop up, regardless of the organization. The first is the issue of finances. And the second is often the issue of interpersonal conflict. Both challenges require clear heads, patience, transparency, and the ability to find solutions and common ground. It’s imperative that people maintain a positive outlook while staying in ‘team mode’ — providing vision and keeping everyone working toward a common goal.
What role has Judaism played in your life?
Judaism guides every aspect of my life. It has guided the way I raised my family; attending synagogue and observing Shabbat was and continues to be a joyful part of our lives. We sent all three of our children to K - 12 Jewish day school to ensure they would grow up to be knowledgeable and committed Jews, ready to do their part in making the world a better place. (And they did!)
Regarding my work in the Jewish community, I use Jewish texts as a blueprint for how I function in leadership roles. Judaism affects how I treat and speak to people — and even how I run a board meeting. Jewish principles govern how I invest my philanthropic dollars and guide how I treat every organization I have the privilege of supporting.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with other women?
I think there are a few key rules for women’s leadership: Love, support and mentor each other. Be proud of each other’s accomplishments. Be brave. Take risks. Be willing to say, “I made a mistake,” and then learn from it and move on. Be willing to change course. Be willing to say “I’m sorry” — and mean it. And always have a team. After all, no one leads alone.