Shira Goodman, CEO of Staples, will be the keynote speaker at CJP’s Women’s Philanthropy annual kickoff event on Monday, Oct. 2. She will address how Jewish values have played a significant role in her professional life.

Goodman recently spoke to JewishBoston about the ways in which the spirit of tikkun olam motivates her to participate in myriad volunteer positions within CJP and the Jewish community at large. The daughter of a rabbi, Goodman is also married to Wesley Gardenswartz, senior rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Newton. She attended day school and as an undergraduate at Princeton University was active in Hillel.


Her involvement in Boston’s Jewish community has included her tenure as president of the board of Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston, as well as a turn as vice president of the board of Gann Academy. Her dedication to the Jewish community continues as she serves on CJP’s board of directors and the board of Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale.

Remarking on her volunteer resume, Goodman noted: “There is a lot of value in my volunteerism in terms of personal growth. Before I was on a for-profit board, I served on Solomon Schechter’s board. There is so much to gain from the non-profit world. You learn skills that are very applicable in the for-profit world. I think of those two parts of my life as being very integrated.”

Goodman co-chaired CJP’s Strategic Planning Taskforce last year and is currently co-chairing CJP’s President Search Committee. “As part of the strategic plan, there is a vision about what role CJP plays in Boston’s Jewish community,” she said. “There is a seismic change in the way the next generation looks at [Jewish life]. It’s all about being open, inclusive and diverse. It’s about taking Judaism’s history and tradition as well as its values to give people’s lives purpose and meaning and an opportunity to do tikkun olam.”

The concept of tikkun olam is central to Goodman’s unique business outlook. At Staples, she thinks about repairing and healing the world in several ways. The company has a strong culture of giving back to the communities in which it has a presence. Staples has created a “ShareFund,” in which the company matches its employees’ contributions. “At a very direct level, the ShareFund is associates helping associates,” Goodman said. “The vast majority of our associates are hourly employees. If there is any kind of emergency, they don’t necessarily have extra money to deal with it. During times like Harvey and Irma, the ShareFund is particularly important.”

For Goodman, the next level of tikkun olam in the company is more mission-driven. She pointed out that working at Staples is often the first step in a career path—employment at Staples not only exposes a young employee to work and responsibility, but it often launches a career. “The overall company mission is to help businesses succeed,” she said. “Job creation is an important aspect of that success.”

Goodman also emphasized that a key component to thriving at work is to set aside a discreet time to disengage from it. Goodman, who observes Shabbat weekly, brings that spirit into the workplace. “Some things are non-negotiable,” she said. “I’ve always been Shabbat observant. I think of the saying from Ahad Ha’am, in which he says, ‘More than the people have kept Shabbat; Shabbat has kept the people.’ Looking back, I can say that Shabbat has kept me grounded for all these years. It gives me time to think, to connect with family and friends. Everyone needs space to just zone out. It can be any kind of activity.”

Goodman recently touted the benefits of creating a “work-free zone” in her weekly blog for Staples employees. She wrote: “As living, breathing people, we need time to fill our energy tank, sharpen our edge, recharge our batteries—pick your favorite metaphor. Put simply, we need to take some time off of work so that our time at work is more productive. I do this by going tech-free every Saturday. I do this for religious, emotional and mental-health reasons.”

Her work for CJP is now at an important juncture. “It’s an honor and responsibility to co-chair the search for CJP’s new president,” she said. “Barry Shrage has been a tremendous leader for these past three decades. But I’m also very excited about the future. We’re just at the beginning of the process.” At this stage, Goodman and her co-chair, Aron Ain, are soliciting input from the community about its expectations for CJP’s next leader. “CJP has a unique role in harnessing the power of community,” Goodman said.