Each month our Women of Impact profile features a local woman, nominated by a community member, who is making an impact in our community. For this month's profile, we spoke with Carolyn Gitlin, who has just begun her term as Federation Board Chair. Carolyn was nominated by Lion of Judah and former Federation Board member Jessica Fish.
What inspired you to get involved in our Jewish community?
I grew up in West Hartford and I’ve spent almost my entire life here, as has my husband, Jeff. Being Jewish is a central part of my identity, so it was natural for me to get involved. I’m a member of Beth El Temple in West Hartford, and I became involved with Federation when my children were babies. (My youngest is now a junior in college.) I was looking for a way to connect with other young Jewish moms, and I became active in the Young Women’s Division. We held gatherings at the Claypen and Jonathan’s Dream, and we started the Dorot Society, which taught our kids about tzedakah by encouraging them to give small gifts in their own name. I eventually became the Chair of the Young Women’s Division, and that was just the beginning.
What have you done to make a positive impact?
I’ve always looked for opportunities to pay it forward for my family and my community. When my kids were growing up, I was involved with their schools: first Norfeldt Elementary and then Kingswood Oxford. I served on the KO Board of Trustees and as president of the Parent Association; I also served on the board of Tumble Brook Country Club. When my children left for college, I had more time to focus on my own identity - and that led me back to Federation. I was Vice Chair of Outreach and Engagement for the Women’s Philanthropy division, then Women’s Philanthropy Chair. In 2017, Jeff and I co-chaired a community mission to Israel with our good friends Vicki and Richard Rosenthal. In 2018, I became First Vice Chair of the Federation Board, and in June of this year I was elected Chair of the Board. I am also on the board of the Max Cares Foundation.
What was your biggest challenge, and what is your proudest accomplishment?
I have always tried to be positive in the face of challenges. I’m happiest when I’m helping other people, and it has been a source of great comfort during difficult times. My proudest leadership accomplishment so far is establishing Living with Intention. For the past 5 years, our Federation has been bringing women together from across the Jewish community for an inspirational program that nourishes our hearts and souls. Each year a different speaker helps us think about how to create deeper meaning in our own lives and in our community.
Enriching the lives of women both locally and globally is important to me. I’m honored to have served on the board of the Aurora Foundation for Women and Girls in Greater Hartford, and in 2017 I was thrilled to be elected to Federation’s National Women’s Philanthropy Board.
What role has Judaism played in your life?
Judaism fills me up! Many of my most precious memories are of spending Jewish holidays with my family and attending Temple together… it brings me so much joy.
Another thing I love about Judaism is that there is always an opportunity to learn and grow. I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah at Beth El just five years ago. And this past year, I participated in the Jewish Leadership Academy’s Community Leadership Initiative, where I spent a year learning and working with rising Jewish leaders from all over Greater Hartford.
Is there any advice you’d like to share with other women?
Yes: Our community needs you! Some women prefer to be out front in leadership roles, and others would rather work behind the scenes. Whether you enjoy reading to at-risk students or like to visit with homebound seniors or want to help determine how we allocate Annual Campaign dollars, there is a place for you to thrive in our Jewish community.