The CEOs are out; the respiratory therapist is in.On the heels of a series of male moguls, the president of Hadassah, June Walker, has been nominated to chair the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. She’ll be the second woman to chair the umbrella group, and the first leader of a women’s organization, adding another crack in what has been considered a glass ceiling for women in Jewish organizational life.
If elected by the full membership, June starts in June.The last female chair was Shoshana Cardin, whose term ended in the early 1990s. The appointment of Walker is a departure for a group whose recent leaders include Ronald Lauder, James Tisch and Mortimer Zuckerman — men closely associated with politics and the corporate world. The move is also something of a departure since Hadassah, although a Zionist organization, has in recent years focused mostly on domestic and medical issues.
Walker’s credentials are in health and medicine, as befits the leader of Hadassah, which has a worldwide medical organization. She has degrees in chemistry, respiratory and public health administration and has been a college professor and hospital administrator. She also has a long track record of involvement in Jewish causes.
“She has been a longtime leader and is highly conversant in the issues facing the Conference of Presidents,” said outgoing Conference chairman Harold Tanner in a statement.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Walker was “a good choice. We’ve had businessmen and media people … she has headed a huge-numbered Jewish organization and proven to be an effective leader.”
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, noted that while Walker was chair of the Hadassah College of Technology in Israel, membership increased from 600 to 2,000 and from a two-year program to a fully accredited four-year college.
“She is well-respected and has certainly paid her dues,” said Hoenlein.The Presidents Conference, created during the Eisenhower administration, is considered the Jewish community’s central umbrella group in dealing with administrations on Israel-related issues.
Laurie Richter’s mezuzah proved to bring her good luck.
It let her mezuzah stay up.
The 28-year-old attorney in Fort Lauderdale who attached a mezuzah to the door post of her apartment when she moved in five months ago — and was told by her condo board to take it down — was informed by the board earlier this month that the mezuzah can remain in place. She had mounted a public campaign to keep the mezuzah up.
“I was fighting really hard — I never took it down,” Richter, who works as an associate for a Fort Lauderdale law firm, told The Jewish Week in a telephone interview. “We need to keep fighting for our beliefs.”
A mezuzah, according to traditional Jewish belief, protects a Jewish home.
Does she attribute part of her success to the mezuzah’s presence?
“Yeah,” she said. “It probably did help.”
Richter said she is following the progress of a bill now before the state legislature, which would guarantee the right of Jewish tenants to affix a mezuzah to their door posts.
Following the announcement of her victory, she was invited to attend Saturday morning services, as an honorary member, at a local synagogue that has a large number of Holocaust survivors as members. “They were happy,” she said. “They wanted to shake my hand.”
Richter’s firm was understanding of the time demands her mezuzah fight required. Now, she said, she can concentrate on starting her career as a commercial litigation and securities lawyer. “I’m looking forward to that. I was distracted a little bit.”