You are here

Where are the Women in Jewish Professional Life?

Where are the Women in Jewish Professional Life?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — September 19, 2012

For more information contact:   

Brian Zimmerman | 312.322.1724
Betsy Gomberg or 312.322.1756 


Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of the Forward, will spearhead
a discussion of gender inequities in Jewish organizations
at Spertus' Celebration of Jewish Professional Life & Leadership
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 

(CHICAGO) Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism and the first woman to serve as editor-in-chief of the Forward, will spearhead a discussion about gender inequities in Jewish organizations when she serves as guest speaker for Spertus Institute’s Celebration of Jewish Professional Life & Leadership. The program, which takes place on Wednesday,
November 14 at 5:30 pm, is free and open to professionals and volunteers who work in, with, and for Jewish organizations. Reservations are requested on or before November 7 by email to

"This is an issue for professionals, volunteers, and donors, regardless of gender," said Dr. Hal M. Lewis, President and CEO of Spertus and an expert on Jewish leadership. "At Spertus, where we believe that strong leaders build and sustain strong Jewish communities, we feel a special responsibility to bring this issue to the forefront. And Jane Eisner is the perfect person to foster the conversation."

According to a recent article in Washington Jewish Week, although women dominate volunteer positions in Jewish organizations and often work their way up to important positions, they “rarely end up in the ultimate seat of power.” In fact, of 153 North American Jewish Federations, only 50 (33%) are headed by women. Of the 20 largest of these Federations, only two (just 10%) have a women in the top job.

One of these women, Ruth Messinger, President and CEO of the American Jewish World Service, reported that women are leaving the Jewish workplace because "they do not believe they will ever get to the top.” Instead of wooing female employees, she said, "The Jewish community in the 21st century is frittering away its talent."

Jane Eisner has been addressing this issue for many years. In a recent editorial in the Forward, she said “I’m…grateful for the incremental changes in workplace policies and individual attitudes that I’ve witnessed in the past dozen years. I’d like to believe the Forward’s editorials championing women’s leadership and the need for family-friendly policies in Jewish organizations have contributed to some modest successes and will encourage more. But we’re nibbling around the edges.”

Since joining the Forward in 2008, Ms. Eisner has led the publication to win numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism. Over the course of her career, Ms. Eisner held executive editorial and news positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer and has written for the Washington Post, Newsday, Brookings Review, Columbia Journalism Review, Ma’ayan, and the Reconstructionist. She hosts The Salon, the first women’s program produced by The Jewish Channel. She also has deep roots in academe, serving as the first Koeppel Fellow in Journalism at Wesleyan University, where she teaches. In 2006, she was one of three women chosen to be the fellows of the new Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center at Bryn Mawr College.

Ms. Eisner received a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism and graduated from Wesleyan University cum laude in 1977, where she was the first female editor of the college newspaper and was a member of the board of trustees. She recently was the first woman to win Wesleyan’s McConaughy Award for contributions to journalism and public life.

Spertus Institute’s Celebration of Jewish Professional Life & Leadership is an annual event in which the faculty and students of the Spertus Master of Arts in Jewish Professional Studies and Certificate in Jewish Leadership programs invite Jewish professionals from across the Chicago region to join them for an evening of networking, refreshments, and discussion of the issues driving change and growth in Jewish organizations. 

Spertus is located at 610 S. Michigan Avenue. Discount parking is available for $10 with Spertus validation at the Essex Inn, two blocks south of Spertus.

Spertus offers dynamic learning opportunities, rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and open to all. Graduate programs and workshops train future leaders and engage individuals in exploration of Jewish life. Public programs include films, speakers, seminars, and concerts — at the Institute's Michigan Avenue facility, in the suburbs, and online. For more information, please visit    

This program presented in partnership with the Forward, an influential national Jewish newspaper that covers politics, social and community issues, and Jewish arts and culture.

Spertus is a partner in serving our community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. 

#  #  #