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As a follow-up to my article about the top 10 strong Jewish women in media and movies, this article is about the top ten living Jewish female role models.
As a proud father of daughters; as an “alpha male” who was raised by a strong Jewish woman; as someone who wants Jewish women (and all women) to be inspired to do great things, this list offers formidable Jewish women role models worthy of respect and admiration. These women are all alive, and should provide strength of character and inspiration to anyone reading this list. To be featured on this list, they have to be committed to Jewish values.
In no particular order:
Sheryl Sandberg: The Chief Operating Officer of Facebook has been credited by Forbes Magazine as having “overhauled Facebook and helped make it the most popular social network in cyberspace.” Forty-five years old, she has spoken of the importance of Judaism in her life. Her best-selling book “Lean In” made her a household name and helped her to further earn the respect of women world-wide, as she detailed a balanced life -with tremendous professional success and a loving family. Recently, with the sudden death of her husband Dave Goldberg, Sandberg mourned her loss very publicly. She spoke of the importance of sitting shiva, and of the power of the shloshim period, the 30-day mourning period after the burial of a close relative. This woman showed the power of strength even in pain – her resilience and strength of character are inspiring.
Ayelet Shaked: Israel’s Minister of Justice is only 39 years old, and has quickly proven herself to be a valiant woman making a difference for the Jewish State. She’s hard-working, eloquent, and fights for what she believes is right. A secular leader of a religious party, her heritage is an amalgamation of Ashkenazi and Sephardic lineage. A charismatic leader, she rightfully pronounces “… that public diplomacy is the new battlefield and that money and resources must be invested to repulse the wave of incitement and lies spread about [Israel] around the world. The battlefield of public diplomacy is far more important today to the existence of the State of Israel than a tank battalion or an Apache squadron.” Expect to see so much more from Ms. Shaked for many years to come. Ms. Shaked is a strong Zionist female leader to be respected.
Karnit Flug: The Governor of the Central Bank of Israel, and the chief economic adviser to the government, Flug received an “A” grade in the annual report card issued by Global Finance Magazine on central bankers. Under Flug, one of the few female central bankers in the world, Israel continues to have a very strong economy, and the Start-Up nation thrives. Thankfully, there is a strong woman manning this bank and Israel’s robust economy.
Miriam Adelson: Miri Adelson is a medical doctor, businesswoman, and philanthropist who owns 26.9% of Las Vegas Sands, one of the largest gaming companies in the world. The life – and business – partner of Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the native-born Israeli comes from modest beginnings – and continues to work daily conducting research and working with patients on medical issues. The Adelsons are the most prevalent Jewish philanthropists in the world, funding important causes like Yad Vashem, Birthright, and Ariel University. This is an intense, strong, committed, ideological woman.
(An honorable mention also goes to Cherna Moskowitz of The Irving & Cherna Moskowitz Foundation. The Moskowitz family are pioneers committed to ensuring that Jerusalem remains Jewish, and have devoted their lives to ensuring the safety and security of Israel.)
Mauren Lippman: The U.K.-based Jewish actress is best known for her role as a proud Jewish mother in a series of British Telecom advertisements. The award-winning actress has long spoken of being proud to be Jewish, and has noted that even on-screen Jews should be seen as ethical. She has spoken out for Israel, condemning Labour Party leader Ed Miliband for demanding a Palestinian State while ignoring the fact that Israel is defending itself from daily terror attacks. Lippman has noted on the BBC that “human life is not cheap to the Israelis, and human life on the other side is quite cheap actually, because they strap bombs to people and send them to blow themselves up.” She has condemned “self-hating” Jews and makes herself a proud and very public face as a strong Jewish woman in Europe.
Miriam Peretz: She became a household name in Israel through tragedy – as two of her sons were killed protecting Israel in the Israel Defense Forces. Displaying strength, faith, and courage, she spoke to the nation with passion and charisma about dedication to God and to the Jewish people. As Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We are amazed by the mother’s strength, Miriam, the mother of the sons. The entire nation draws strength from her courage.” Today, Ms. Peretz speaks often on Israel’s behalf all over the world.
(Another honorable mention goes to Rachelle Fraenkel, whose son was kidnapped and murdered in June 2014, and as The Jerusalem Post said, she “remains, a symbol of the period of unprecedented social unity, prayer and faith, a period that carried on into the rocket-racked days of Operation Protective Edge.”)
Nitsana Darshan Leitner: As founder of the Israel Law Center, Nitsana has long fought for terror victims worldwide. Inspired by the Southern Poverty Law Center, her lawsuits on behalf of terror victims have taken on terrorists anywhere who would harm Jews and Israel. This lady fights in both the court of law and the court of public opinion to see that terrorists are not rewarded, but held accountable. Ms. Darshan Leitner has won billions in judgments against terror states and organizations in courts worldwide.
Shari Arison: Israel’s richest woman, the American-born business woman and philanthropist, served in the Israel Defense Forces, and is the owner of the Arison Group, a global conglomerate. She has been named one of the World’s Most Powerful Women by Forbes repeatedly, is a renowned self-help guru, and is author of the best-selling book, “Activate Your Goodness: Transforming the World through Doing Good,” which is a New York Times bestseller. She sponsors Israel’s “Good Deeds Day” which encourages volunteer work nation-wide. Shari Arison is a woman who helps make the world a better place.
Miriam Levinger: The native New Yorker led a group of women and children to reclaim the Jewish community of Hebron in 1979, one of the holiest cities in Judaism, where the Cave of the Patriarchs is located. She’s a registered nurse, who has helped lead this community, together with her husband Moshe Levinger (who passed away earlier this year). This city marks the roots of Jewish existence.
(An honorable mention goes to Daniella Weiss, who since the 1970s has served as a leader of the settlement movement, ensuring Jews can live freely throughout the land of Israel. She was Mayor of Kedumim for many years, helped establish a number of communities, and with charisma, charm, and chutzpah, has long raised a voice of moral consciousness for Jewish pioneers in Israel.)
Ruth Lichtenstein: Ms. Lichtenstein is the very strong female publisher of the ultra-Orthodox newspaper Hamodia; it is the largest Jewish daily news venue in the world. She is a Jerusalem-born educator and a prominent Holocaust historian. Her non-profit, Project Witness, is a leader in Holocaust curriculum for schools worldwide. Ms. Lichtenstein is a pillar of faith in Judaism and her book “Witness to History” offers a remarkable, unique country-by-country history of the Holocaust. A Haredi leader, she commands respect, and epitomizes compassion, faith, and absolute dignity.
The work of formidable Jewish women is rooted in our history, from Hannah Senesh to Golda Meir. Our people have a long history of women leaders. These women listed here, and of course, so many more, have done work that will have a lasting impact on the Jewish people for many generations to come, and surely the world as well.
As the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky said, “I hold the woman’s place over that of men in every fundamental aspect of public and private life. Except for brute labor which demands physical prowess, there is no position or profession that I would not prefer handing to a woman over a man. …in three portraits of women that fate dealt my way–an experience that ingrained within me the concept of a soul woven from strings of steel and strings of silk. And this concept I call ‘woman.’”