A week ago, I had had the opportunity to question 10 Jewish women, in public, about their lives, their leadership roles and their family secrets. It was an all-female minyan, on stage at a Washington D.C. hotel, for a good cause — Jewish Women International’s annual conference highlighting 10 Women to Watch.
It was a fascinating line-up, including CNN’s senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, environmentalist Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, Judaic scholar Arna Poupko Fisher, the U.S. Ambassador to the United National Commission on the Status of Women Meryl Frank, and Kim Oster-Holstein, a.k.a. the pretzel lady, a founder of Kim and Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels. (Samples were offered everywhere, to great reviews.)
I was struck by one thing in particular: Two women who had assumed a leadership role in their family’s business. Dominique Schurman, for instance, the CEO of Schurman Retail Group, which owns 430 stores selling stationary, greeting cards, and other forms of what they call “personal expression.” She started working for her father answering phones; now she runs the place.
And Nicole Feld, executive vice president of Feld Entertainment, a producer of entertainment events including Disney on Ice and — here’s a surprise — Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which her grandfather bought in 1967. (The circus is owned by a Jewish family?)
Both these women credited their families with inspiring their career choices, and supporting them. Quite a change from the days when only the sons inherited the family farm.
More about all of the honorees can be found here: At a time when it seems the glass ceiling is practically falling down on women in Jewish communal life, how refreshing it is to see these women achieve so much in the world.