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The Values and Strengths that Orthodox Jewish Women Bring to the Workplace
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JOFA Blog

The Values and Strengths that Orthodox Jewish Women Bring to the Workplace

As a lawyer and professor of business law, I have found that women bring their own brand of values to an employment setting. (Of course we do!)  In fact, it was due to my prior experience in the workplace that I cultivated the value-added skill of navigating halakhic sources to support women’s leadership roles within Orthodoxy. While at work, I came to personalize an innate set of positive values that are now integral to my religious life. 

I grew up participating in services at the Young Israel of Montreal, an Orthodox shul. I vividly recall my joyful singing of Anim Zemirot along with my father in the men’s section, within a welcoming community of Holocaust survivors. I attended Michlala Jerusalem College for Women and Barnard College, where my courses put words to the egalitarian treatment that had been modeled in my years at Camp Moshava and the Jewish world of my youth. 

As a young parent at Kehilath Jeshurun (KJ) on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, and bonded with Belda Lindenbaum (a”h) and Carol Newman—first participating in their Upper West Side Women’s Tefillah Group (WTG), and later co-founding with them the inaugural WTG at KJ. My identity as an Orthodox Jewish feminist was thereby solidified. I continued to learn and connect with other like-minded people through the educational programs of Edah and JOFA. 

Having learned the value of family-wide ritual participation growing up, I was able to bring this perspective to bear as a first-year associate at a large New York law firm.  I was fortunate to work closely with a particularly enlightened group of colleagues who adopted the values of “Family Pride.” Though quite rare at the time, my mentors were women who took pride in providing other women with a full menu of opportunities and, remarkably, were deliberately open about their personal lives outside the office. We married and had children, announced attendance at school plays, parent-teacher conferences, and family outings—all with the firm’s support. We even wore wedding-related jewelry, unabashedly, without the concern that we were considered kept women. We were proud of who we were and what we had accomplished. 

It was this brazen approach to the role of our personal lives in the workplace that gave me the confidence to carve out a similarly progressive path in my religious life. Just as it was an assumption that I had a unique tool-set to offer from my perch as a young female lawyer in a male-dominated culture, so, too, I came to expect the same in the religious sphere.

It was this brazen approach to the role of our personal lives in the workplace that gave me the confidence to carve out a similarly progressive path in my religious life. Just as it was an assumption that I had a unique tool-set to offer from my perch as a young female lawyer in a male-dominated culture, so, too, I came to expect the same in the religious sphere. This perspective has buoyed me and enabled me to serve as president of Lechu Neranena, the only partnership minyan in the Philadelphia area, as CEO of my own law practice, and as lecturer at the Wharton School. 

 

Advocating for a Level Playing Field for Women

As part of this journey, I have consistently and confidently advocated for a level playing field for women and girls as a basic premise. Though change is never easy, nor is it accomplished overnight, I live by the respective mantras of Blu Greenberg and Theodor Herzl: “Where there is a rabbinic will, there is a halakhic way,” and “If you will it, it is not a dream.”  These remain at the forefront of my mind in my never-ending efforts to equalize women’s roles in the religious and secular contexts. Even though it has not always been an easy identity to own, and I have received much pushback, through my Jewish board leaderships, I have worked to ensure that women’s voices are considered and heard with regard to school curricula, programs, and policies, as well as in the business/law professional and academic contexts. 

That is precisely what Orthodox Jewish women bring to the workplace: the experience of having forged a new path, the gratitude to those who tirelessly looked out for others, and the enduring motivation to open doors for all.

 Within Lechu Neranena, we seek to empower girls and women to be ritual leaders and thereby create a normalized inclusive community of full participants of all genders. As a board member of Women Owned Law, I work to facilitate the integration of women entrepreneurial owners of law and legal services firms to grow their businesses and raise their profiles within the legal community.

That is precisely what Orthodox Jewish women bring to the workplace: the experience of having forged a new path, the gratitude to those who tirelessly looked out for others, and the enduring motivation to open doors for all.

Carolyn Hochstadter Dicker, Esq., serves on the JOFA Board, chairs JOFA’s Philadelphia chapter, and is a member of the JOFA Journal’s Editorial Board. She is principal of E. Carolyn Hochstadter Dicker, LLC, and is also a faculty member of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.. She serves on the boards of Kohelet Yeshiva, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Lechu Neranena, and Women Owned Law.

 

Posts are contributed by third parties. The opinions and facts in them are presented solely by the authors and JOFA assumes no responsibility for them.

If you’re interested in writing for JOFA’s blog contact dani@jofa.org. For more about JOFA like us on Facebook or visit our website.

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