We talked to some of the women who are the top professionals (either CEOs or executive directors) at our nonprofit partners. Some are seasoned veterans, others relatively new to their leadership roles. They opened up about their professional journeys, sharing advice for other women who are looking to lead.

Amira Ahronoviz
CEO and Director General (since 2019)
The Jewish Agency for Israel

(Q) Who were your mentors or role models?
(A) If I have to choose just one, it would be my mother z”l, who passed away six years ago. She taught me critical thinking, to not accept things as they are just because that’s how they were presented to me. To examine things carefully, with an open mind and without bias, and to formulate my opinions based on the results. And not to be afraid to change my mind. To know when to say yes, but just as importantly to know when to say no. And at the same time, to keep my humanity at the forefront when dealing with other people — that being a human is more important than any smart statements, bold decisions, or practical plans. I miss her very much.

Ellie Kastel
Executive Director (since 2009)
Boro Park Y

 (Q) How were you helped on your leadership journey?
(A) As a new worker at the Y, I was given the opportunity to attend meetings and seminars at UJA-Federation. They were the start of my real education. Supervisors encouraged me to take advantage of all that was offered, and at those meetings I learned new concepts and met other professionals who made themselves available and inspired me to experiment and grow. I never thought at that time that I would reach the professional level I’m at today.

Kathryn Haslanger
Chief Executive Officer (since 2012)
JASA

(Q) What would be your advice to other women seeking leadership positions?
(A) 1. You can do it; and 2. You can do it differently.

Too often women in my generation looked at the challenges and obstacles of a leadership opportunity and questioned whether we could do an excellent job. We can be honest with ourselves about our strengths and depth of experience, constantly on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow, and yet confident that our skills and judgment will serve us well in a new leadership role. Women are positioned to break the traditional leadership molds, to be authentic leaders who are both smart and passionate, who know when a situation calls for empathy or emotion along with evidence.

Moshit Rivkin
Executive Director (since 2017)
Hebrew Educational Society

(Q) What’s one important leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?
(A) What worked well one year ago may no longer be effective today. We always have to find ways to stay relevant and be willing to adapt. One thing that I’m still challenged by is the idea that success is not a straight line up. There will be downfalls, and your perseverance during those moments is super critical to the overall success.

Jenna Citron Schwab
Executive Director (since 2019)
Queens College Hillel

(Q) Can you share a moment that was a professional highpoint?
(A) In 2018 I was awarded the Hillel International Richard M. Joel Exemplar of Excellence Award. The award itself is not my proudest achievement. It’s actually the words they used to explain why I was being awarded: “for never being satisfied with the status quo.” I nearly jumped up and yelled, “You understand me! You really understand me!” To me, it meant that I had clearly and courageously communicated, through my words and actions, who I am and what I believe.

 

We honor all the women at UJA and throughout our network who work every day to make our community stronger, more caring, and more welcoming to all. These are the women who hold the top executive positions at our partner nonprofits:

 

Amira Ahronoviz, The Jewish Agency for Israel

Merav Fine Braun, Hunter College Hillel

Nadya Drukker, Tanger Hillel at Brooklyn College

Danielle Ellman, Commonpoint Queens

Deann Forman, The Riverdale Y

Susan Fox, Shorefront YM-YWHA of Brighton – Manhattan Beach

Beth Goldman, New York Legal Assistance Group

Kathryn Haslanger, Jewish Association Serving the Aging (JASA)

Deborah Hes, Jewish Community Council of Washington Heights-Inwood

Betsy Jacobson, United Jewish Council of the East Side, Inc.

Ellie Kastel, The Boro Park Y

Rachel Klein, Hillels of Westchester

Karen Kolodny, Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester

Amy Koplow, Hebrew Free Burial Association

Rachel Krich, Shorefront Jewish Community Council

Rabbi Joy Levitt, Marlene Meyerson Jewish Community Center Manhattan

Leslie Meyers, Harold and Elaine Shames Jewish Community Center on the Hudson

Rena Mikhaylova, Bensonhurst Council of Jewish Organizations

Amy Posner, College of Staten Island Hillel

Moshit Rivkin, Hebrew Educational Society

Rita Santelia, Mosholu-Montefiore Community Center

Lauren Brandt Schloss, Usdan Summer Camp for Arts

Jenna Citron Schwab, Queens College Hillel

Cynthia Zalisky, Queens Jewish Community Council

 

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