Quick Jewish Thought: Honoring Women of Valor
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Lisa Hacker, our Women's Philanthropy Director, shares a quick Jewish thought about the power of women to do good in Cleveland, Israel, and around the world.
International Women’s Day was held on March 8 and celebrated to honor the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It’s an official day to recognize women who have impacted and inspired us, and commemorate the movement for women’s rights.
As Director of Women’s Philanthropy, I strive to meaningfully engage women with diverse interests in a personal, powerful way. We encourage women to raise their voices; serve as role models, participate in challenging conversations, make an individual gift to the Campaign for Jewish Needs, and inspire the next generation – just to name a few examples.
Even though research indicates equality with men will not be achieved worldwide until the year 2133, Judaism can proudly boast it has already met and surpassed these expectations by valuing women in a deliberate custom – honoring women of valor. Thousands of years before the modern-day “call for gender-balanced leadership,” Jews have been paying tribute to women of valor. As we all know, women are equipped with wisdom to start and lead businesses, care for and manage their households, negotiate, and empower others.
Women of valor, or Eishet Chayil in Hebrew, represent strength, wealth, honesty, courage, power, or accomplishment. The word “valor” can be defined as personal bravery and recognizes someone who speaks and acts with intent; is able to keep the needs of others in perspective to their own needs; and who is dedicated to improving the world. While we often think of women of valor in biblical times, you may ask, “What does a modern-day woman of valor look like?” Recently, I had the privilege of traveling on the Wolf Fellows Mission to Israel. Each person we met and every story told moved me in some way. I was particularly inspired though by two very special people, who in my opinion are women of valor:
Dr. Dalia Fadila is the first female dean of an Islamic college in Israel, and the founder of The Q School, Q standing for “quality,” in the Arab town of Tira. She is known as an organizational development expert – focusing on cultural empowerment to create change in an Arabic speaking community by learning and embracing English and Hebrew languages. Dalia also started the Arab Youth Leadership Center to engage and inspire young women in her community. Her work on gender issues, culture, identity, and schooling are empowering Arab women to become teachers, entrepreneurs, and leaders. She is truly an educational pioneer.
We also met Rena Quint over Shabbat dinner in her home through a program called Shabbat of a Lifetime. Her warmth and charm made for an unforgettable evening. Rena shared her story of perseverance and strength. In her words, she has had a very good life; it just started 10 years after it should have. Rena’s entire family was murdered in the Holocaust. Every time she lost someone, another person came along to take care of her. At one point, Rena had to change her name and even her gender to survive. She lost six mother-figures before the age of 10, yet was fortunate enough to restart her life as an Orthodox American girl living in New York City.
Rena and her husband Rabbi Manny Quint have lived in Israel for more than 30 years. She frequently volunteers at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and typically hosts 30-50 people in her home for Shabbat dinner. Rena believes sharing Shabbat with others has the power to unite people, elevate conversations, and deepen community. She certainly makes the most of every moment, lives her life to the fullest, and takes nothing for granted. Rena is also the author of the book, A Daughter of Many Mothers, which was published this past September. I believe Rena is a woman of valor not only for her personal bravery and courage, but because she made the choice to keep her story alive and celebrate Shabbat with thousands of Jews and non-Jews from around the world.
As Federation professionals and volunteers, we work hard each and every day to enhance the continuity and strength of our local and global Jewish community. May each of us continue to be people of valor, leaders for Jewish Cleveland, valued for our actions, and empowered to make our world a better place.