Bringing Women on Board. Here’s How.

Jewish women are entering the upper echelons of management in business and banking, medicine and law, arts and government, but we are not yet appropriately represented in the Jewish community. Some corporations offer large bonuses in order to recruit women into management positions, but the Jewish community offers accomplished women little recognition. Major national Jewish organizations (except for women’s organizations) have rarely had a woman as chief executive. And women are similarly underrepresented in volunteer positions. One especially horrifying finding from a recent survey of volunteer boards of Jewish organizations: full-time employed women, the fastest-growing segment of Jewish women, are the women least likely to be recruited to leadership positions in the Jewish community.

Why does gender representation matter? Because important decisions about policies and programs at everything from child-care agencies to Jewish community centers, from synagogue ritual committees (should women have equal rites?) to Hebrew schools (should girls have equal rites?) get made in these executive suites.

“Power and Parity: Women on the Boards of Major American Jewish Organizations,” the 1998 study conducted by Ma’yan, the Jewish Women’s Project [see LILITH, Spring 1998], found that only 25% of the board members were female, and half the boards have fewer than 25% female membership.

One outdated explanation has been to blame women for this imbalance. Only last month the Task Force on Women at New York UJA-Federation heard the proposal, “Maybe we should offer women skill-building workshops.” To say that it’s the women who need the help, and not recognize the chauvinism of the men overlooking them, is ludicrous, considering the sheer talent of Jewish women in so many fields.

Better news is that, armed with statistics from Ma’yan’s survey and others, some enlightened Jewish organizations are actually now seeking women as board members and candidates for executive slots. LILITH is uniquely poised to help them do so. LILITH’s National Jewish Women’s Talent Bank, up and running since 1994, has more than 400 experts in various fields in our database. Now, LILITH is launching a new initiative at the Talent Bank. In addition to maintaining our extensive resource files on women experts in a variety of fields, LILITH will begin to keep track of women interested in serving on the boards, or as executives of Jewish organizations—local, regional or national.

The Jewish Women’s Talent Bank, started with seed money from the Nathan Cummings Foundation, is now looking for ongoing support from organizations and foundations. Under the direction of Naomi Danis, the Talent Bank has made all sorts of custom matches for organizations or individuals—a university looking for an engaging woman scholar to give a named lecture, a reporter looking for an female expert to quote in a breaking story, a bride looking for a ketubah artist and a woman rabbi. The Talent Bank is not an employment agency, a speakers bureau, or a list. It is a LILITH program that offers creative consultations and suggestions.

There is nothing else like The Jewish Women’s Talent Bank, and we invite you to participate:

  • Request a Talent Bank form, fill it out and submit your own resume and other materials for our files. Call 1-888-2-LILITH, or e-mail You can also print out a Talent Bank form from our web site at
  • Ask LILITH to help your organization or agency locate women who might be appropriate board members or executives (as many of you have done already). Contact us: LILITH, 250 West 57 Street NY 10107, (212) 757-0818. Fax: (212)757-5705. E-mail:
  • Make a tax-deductible contribution to the Talent Bank at LILITH and be part of this unique project, doing the work we all believe in. You can contribute by check or by credit card to any of the addresses above.

When reports about gender discrimination in the Jewish community were presented last season to a women’s meeting, Jacqueline Levine, veteran activist, rolled her eyes. And for good reason. A survey claiming “notable gains” for women in breaking through the glass ceiling also revealed that more women are permitted to rise in volunteer roles in smaller Jewish communities than in large cities, that no women is yet the C.E.O. of a Jewish federation in a large city, and that women are seriously underrepresented as board members. These were findings almost identical to statistics Levine herself had reported—in 1972!!!!

Two decades from now, thanks to the efforts of Jackie Levine, Ma’yan, LILITH, and scores of energized women (plus some enlightened men, of course), we trust that we won’t still be rolling our eyes.