Celebration of New Leadership

Participants in the Women’s Leadership Institute gather in prayer during the June 7 Celebration of New Leadership.     

The Women’s Jewish Learning Center (WJLC) and PJ Library hosted a “Celebration of New Leadership” June 7, at The New Shul in Scottsdale to congratulate their first leadership cohort of the Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) on completing their year of study.   

The program, created by Rabbi Elana Kanter, director of the WJLC, with Harriet Rosen and Alison Betts, matches participants with mentors for a year-long journey to foster women’s leadership for Jewish organizations in the Valley of the Sun. The women, ages 25-45, chose a project and were paired with a mentor who guided her through leadership based on Jewish values. The women met as a group and in one-on-one study with their mentor.  

Betts, who was a mentor and serves as the co-chair of the local PJ Library, explained further: “The Women’s Leadership Institute is providing an effective way to empower more women to become active leaders in the community. Through the one-to-one relationship that each mentee has with their mentor, they are able to explore their own Jewish journey and identify the best way to get involved in Jewish communal life that meets their personal needs.”

Mentor Anita Gutkin said that she became involved because of the other women involved. She formed a “meaningful relationship” with her mentee, Suzanne Trevino, and helped her become a stronger part of the Jewish community.

Trevino compared her experience to the biblical story of Jacob’s ladder, where the patriarch dreamed about a staircase to heaven.  

“Learning from Rabbi Kanter about the story of Jacob’s ladder clarified for me the need to work toward my leadership goals both personally and through my volunteerism within our Jewish community,” said Trevino.  

“While there may be setbacks that have us going down a few rungs on the ladder, it’s important to remember that through perseverance we will reach the top and it will be that much sweeter.” Even though the first year has ended, the women will meet three times as a group in the fall, and the mentees will continue to work on their projects, guided by their mentors when needed.  

Next year’s cohort is already formed, according to Kanter.

Kanter praised the mentors for their participation. “We have been so blessed to have an extraordinary group of mentors who gave of their time and talents, to guide and support and challenge and help their mentees grow... [We offer] our sincere and deep gratitude for the guidance, the insight, the empathy, the listening ears and the generous heart that they shared with their mentees and with me. We offer humble thanks, and hope that just as they have blessed us, that God will bless them in kind.”

Jody Cohen is a local freelance writer. The first cohort’s members were Penni Golub, Andrea Kravets, Jolene Kuty, Jessie Rubenstein, Chantelle Sabbath, Jennifer Starrett, Suzanne Trevino, Rachel Wallach, Amanda Walker and Deborah Winegarden. The mentors were Alison Betts, Fredi Brown, Anita Gutkin, Debbie Yunker Kail, Jill Kessler, Ellen Sacks, Tina Sheinbein, Sharona Silverman, Berry Sweet and Connie Wolf.