Jewfem Blog

Interview with Elanit Rothschild Jakabovics

I've spent the past few days on Facebook (yeah, that's pretty much it), writing and chatting about the Freundel scandal. Feel free to friend me there and engage with me. I will upload some of my posts here as well. In the meantime, I am sharing an interview I did with Elanit Jakabovics, the Kesher Israel president and hero of this whole episode. I interviewed her in 2012 shortly after she became the first female president of the shul. Here is the interview, which was originally posted on the JOFA blog:   Interview with Elanit Z Rothschild Jakabovics Elanit Z Rothschild Jakabovics was recently elected as the first woman president of Kesher Israel Synagogue in Washington, DC. Elanit, a 33-year old management consultant with Grant Thornton and a mother of two originally from Staten Island, is not only the first woman but also the youngest president in the shul, whose rabbi is Rabbi Barry Freundel. JOFA Executive Director Elana Sztokman sat down with Elanit to hear about her new position, and to hear about ways that other women can be inspired to follow suit in their own shuls: WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME SHUL PRESIDENT? The technical answer to this question is that a slate was proposed to the shulmembership in early June 2012 and was voted on at the annual membership meeting at the end of June. My term began on July 1, 2012. Coincidentally enough, I was placed on modified bed rest the last week in June and didn’t make it back to shul for Shabbat until my son’s brit on August 11. I was able to attend some meetings between July 1 and August 4 (when my son was born) during the week, since I drove and stayed off my feet for the most part, but I didn’t really go out on Shabbat, nervous my water would break during my walk. to/from. I think the answer you’re looking for, however, is that I was on the Kesher Board since 2004 and shul president was never a role that many ran towards. So, just based on experience at the shul and a few other variables, it sort of fell in my lap. In 2011, the Board revised its by-laws to explicitly allow for female presidents. See here for a copy of the by-laws and the psak halakha by Rabbi Freundel about it: http://kesher.org/governance/documents/CongregationKesherIsraelBy-Laws-FinalAmendedJune2011.pdf  WAS THIS SOMETHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO DO? Yes and no. I was intrigued by the possibilities but was nervous about the implications and responsibilities that it entailed. Remember, Kesher Israel is a small synagogue, with only two paid employees, so almost everything that is done is by volunteer. The role of president at Kesher isn’t just a role where you get to sit and think about the long term vision of the shul. There are a lot of day-to-day operational/programmatic issues to take care of. Not one day goes by where I’m not taking care of something else that is shul-related. HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR JOB? It’s better than anticipated. I enjoy the relationships and connections I am making with people I did...

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From the JOFA blog: The first women shul presidents in Orthodox White Plains

Deborah Weinberger and Beth Hurvitz: Pioneering Women Co-Presidents of Hebrew Institute of White Plains, NY  When Beth Hurvitz, a fifty-two-year-old  Senior Vice President of Visa and single mother of a thirteen-year-old daughter, was asked to become the first woman president of her synagogue , the Hebrew Institute of White Plains, she agreed on one condition: that her friend and colleague Deborah Weinberger would share the job with her. Deborah, a mother of three who works for Camp Ramah, teaches aquatics in Briarcliff, NY, and single-handedly built the synagogue thrift shop into a bustling source of revenue for the synagogue, readily agreed. Thus Deborah and Beth became not only the first women presidents of their Modern Orthodox synagogue, but also the first co-presidents. And they couldn’t be happier. In an interview with JOFA Executive Director Elana Sztokman, these two impressive women share their love for the job, for the community, and for one another. It’s an inspiring story of Orthodox women making change through partnership and care.   Tell me a little bit about yourselves Beth:  I have been living in New Rochelle, NY, and have been a member of the Hebrew Institute of White Plains my entire life. In fact, I was even named at the synagogue!  Deborah: I grew up very differently from the lifestyle I’m living now. I grew up in New York City in a Conservative synagogue and went to Hebrew school, and I never knew this model of an inclusive, Modern Orthodox community existed. In my world, there was either Reform, Conservative or Lubavich, and nothing like this. When I first moved to White Plains with my husband and we had a baby, suddenly I was getting these meals from strangers – I had never experienced anything like that! That was amazing – many friendships started because of those meals – and it’s why I decided to get involved in the synagogue community.  I sat on a few committees, starting with the new members committee, I ran a shabbaton, and then Beth and I launched a retreat, so that’s how our relationship started. From that point, it became apparent that we had complementary skills and talents, and we also had a really good time working together. Beth: It was very clear that we could work well together. Deborah knows everyone in the synagogue. She constantly keeps us in check to make sure we’re doing the right thing. Being the president of the synagogue is different than running a business. It’s about doing the right thing, building a community and making sure everyone has what they need. Deborah: It’s more like customer service, making sure our congregants feel heard and appreciated. Beth has all kinds of business skills and she’s a natural problem-solver. She is also a single mom by choice. I couldn’t manage a goldfish alone! Beth: Deborah has three amazing children and an amazing husband. She also runs the thrift shop in the synagogue and she has totally revitalized it. Today it brings in quite a...

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