By Jacob Schaperow, editor-in-chief, @jschap1
Senior Rivka Golding did not perceive herself as a leader. That was before she co-chaired Maryland Hillel’s third annual Jewish Women’s Leadership Conference, along with sophomore community health major Raquel Weinberg.
“When they first asked me, I kind of rejected the position,” Golding, a Jewish studies major, said, “just because I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to meet the responsibilities … I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to put together a conference geared toward giving people leadership skills.”
The conference took place Feb. 29 with seminar-style “skill sessions” held in Van Munching Hall and a networking dinner and reception at Maryland Hillel across the street. The sessions included “Transforming Obstacles into Opportunities” and “Finding Your Unique Leadership Style.”
About 130 women attended the seven skill sessions, which were taught by female leaders, including Melissa Rosen, director of national outreach for Sharsheret, and Shulamith Klein, chief risk officer for Emory University and Emory Healthcare.
Loribeth Weinstein, CEO of Jewish Women International, gave the conference’s keynote address.
The conference’s sponsors ranged from this university’s Career Center to traditionally Jewish sororities Alpha Epsilon Phi and Sigma Delta Tau.
Erica Bernstein, who led a skills session called “Launching Your Own Venture,” is the CEO of JewelErry, a web-based jewelry outlet she founded when she was a senior at Syracuse University in 2014. Bernstein taught women attending her workshop about how to run a business and what to consider when starting their own ventures, such as target audience, price and identifying a need in the community.
Golding said it is important for women to have female role models.
“Obviously, you can learn a lot from anyone, regardless of if they’re a male or woman,” she said, “but I think it’s important to have role models that you can see yourself in their position and that you have a lot in common with.”
“I would say my mom is my female role model,” Bernstein added. Bernstein grew up helping out in her mother’s business, which is still running today.
In a change from the previous two years, Golding and Weinberg decided to move the conference to the evening, making it a four-hour event with a networking reception, dinner and a keynote speaker, in addition to the workshop sessions.
“We thought that we could elevate it, bring it even better, bigger, have people more excited about it,” Weinberg said.
The conference’s student committee members distributed a seating chart beforehand so attendees at the networking dinner could choose to sit with a woman working in a field they were interested in.
“I think that people left with contact information from these women,” Golding said. “I hope people find internships out of this, they find full-time positions if you’re a senior, or at least that they take what they’ve learned and use it toward bettering the student groups that they’re involved in, being a leader in their family, being a leader in their community.”