A sharp piece by Shannon Sarna and Ruthie Warshenbrot take the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) to task for the announcement that all five Jewish Community Heroes finalists are men. The wrote:
More than half of the 2010 Slingshot organizations are headed by women.
More than half of the 2009 Avi Chai Fellows (“the Jewish genius grant”) award winners are women. More than half of the current Joshua Venture Fellows are women.
And over 70% of Jewish professionals are women.
The number of women finalists in the Jewish Federations of North America’s recent Jewish Community Heroes campaign: Zero. The Jewish Heroes project fails to accurately reflect the landscape of the Jewish community’s best and brightest. When the vast majority of professionals working to enrich the Jewish community are women, how should it come to pass that not a single women is counted among our top five heroes?
The Jewish Community Heroes contest allowed the community at large to nominate and vote for unsung heroes who demonstrate “exceptional qualities and commitment in line with the mission of Jewish Federations of North America, strengthening Jewish community, and the ideals of tikkun olam.” The public voted in 6 women out of 20 semi-finalists. From that pool, a JFNA panel made up of 11 men and 6 women selected the five male finalists. So, it seems as though this disconnect — between the reality of women’s leadership in the Jewish community and the perception of Jewish women as community heroes — is, in part coming from the community at large.
Shannon Sarna and Ruthie Warshenbrot ask “In our Jewish tradition, women are revered, respected and valued in so many ways. What is different about contemporary Jewish life that regards female leadership as less heroic?”