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SHI-NA Praises its Partner, Advancing Women Professionals, As It Closes

Ha’aretz reports on the successes and the closing of Advancing Women Professionals, a U.S. Jewish women’s advocacy group. SHI-North America’s Elana Stein Hain, Director of Leadership Education, and Mijal Biton, Doctoral Fellow, spoke at the closing session

Ha’aretz reports on the successes and the closing of Advancing Women Professionals, a U.S. Jewish women’s advocacy group. SHI-North America’s  Elana Stein Hain , Director of Leadership Education, and Mijal Biton , Doctoral Fellow, spoke at the closing session

SHI-North America President Yehuda Kurtzer said this about the group’s significance:

A few words of praise in honor of Shifra Bronznick….I am certain that Shifra would sooner I talk about the work than about her – after all, the campaign profiles and celebrates the first 100 organizations to have embraced an ethos that she developed – but catalytic change involves a unique change maker, and there is a lot we can learn.

Shifra’s leadership at Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community has been rooted, as I see it, in a simple yet critical idea: that our behaviors as leaders and the behaviors of our organizations should match – in intention and in practice – with our moral values. Much of the time the inattention to this gap leaves us confused as to why – if we all believe in equality, if we are all aware that a community needs to be represented and led in a way that reflects its diversity, if we want to work in happier and more productive professional environments – our organizations do not naturally match these values and hopes. In the curriculum that we have been developing at SHI-North America about gender as a lens in thinking about leadership challenges in North America (developed in collaboration with AWP) we have sought to develop this theme even further with reference to the classical tradition, on the gap between moral imagination and moral behavior and how we collectively course correct to create models of power and authority that are more consistent with our core principles.

What makes Shifra a unique leader and advocate in putting this agenda before the Jewish community has been her willingness to do so with encouragement rather than guilt or shame. She is in essence holding up a mirror to us and asking – is this what you imagine your own leadership to look like? And if not, how can I help you make the case – to yourself, your stakeholders, your broader institution – that we can be better reflections of our authentic selves? In this respect, campaigns like "Men as Allies," with the commitment by male thought-leaders not to sit on all-male panels, make the case neither through shaming nor through altruism, but by cultivating a sense of self-awareness that strengthens leaders in ways that transcend merely this particular (if transformative) commitment.

I have also learned how a person and an organization can maintain a singular focus but can get there through a diversity of approaches, a constant consideration for the superiority of mission over methods, and a deep respect for the time of the very change-agents that are enlisted in the efforts with a commitment to not just be a "convener" for the sake of convening, but because there is something urgent to say or do which always makes the convening worthwhile.

Needless to say I am proud that SHI-North America is making strides to stay aligned with the AWP recommendations and is counted among these 100 organizations…I am excited to see how our community carries forth this important ethical and political agenda after AWP no longer exclusively holds the mantle; after all, once we’ve seen the alternative of who we want to be, why would we perpetuate structures and cultures that reflect the alternative?

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