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COVID-19: Jewish women’s summit addresses concerns of post-coronavirus world

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The Orthodox Union Women’s Initiative hosted the summit, which included 150 women for 78 different communities from across the world

By ILANIT CHERNICK

More than 150 women from 78 different Jewish communities around the world attended a  virtual summit recently to discuss pressing issues for Jewish communal leaders in a post-coronavirus world. 

The summit, which was organized by the Orthodox Union (OU), addressed concerns Jewish communal organizations around the world are feeling, especially the economic impact of COVID-19, while also giving some tools on how to deal with these issues.

The OU Women’s Initiative, which is a new division started a couple years back, usually hosts the annual women’s leadership summit, but this year, due to Covid the program participants aren’t able to travel to, or congregate in such significant numbers so the summit went virtual allowing many who wouldn’t have been able to travel to attend.

“The summit was designed to provide female lay leaders with a platform to learn and network with others who are facing the same issue as Jewish communal organizations around the world are feeling the economic impact of COVID-19,” the OU explained. 

Participants included women from countries like the United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Israel and the UK, among others.

Speaking to IsraelNewsStand, co-chair of the Youth Committee at Merkaz Yisrael Marine Park Jewish Center, Rachel Mohl Abrahams said the summit said that community leaders around the world are looking for ideas to help navigate this “new normal’ in which we find ourselves and our organizations. 

“Sharing ideas with peers as well as learning from experts was extremely helpful,” she explained. “From issues of fundraising to programming, to work/life balance in new contexts, the sessions dealt with timely and important issues.”

Asked about the challenges facing communities in a post founding director the initiative, Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman told IsraelNewsStand that they are “anticipating dramatic communal changes with unprecedented decisions to be made. 

“The OU Women’s Initiative Lay Leadership Summit provided a space for women lay leaders to gather to gain perspective, share strategies and feel supported,” she said. “Organizations need to be prepared to both adapt and pivot as the landscape is ever-changing at such a rapid pace.”

Shmidman explained that developing models for managing complicated dynamics, staying mission focused in fundraising and using technology innovatively were some of the tools shared to most effectively face a post COVID-19 reality.

Sessions also focused on the long-term impact of virtual programming and virtual meetings and the effects on interpersonal dynamics as well as the long-term impact on current organizational economic models, fundraising with sensitivity, COVID-19’s impact on fundraising and reimagining organizations and their goals and missions in response to a new reality.

OU President Moishe Bane pointed out that “in addressing challenges posed by the pandemic and its economic aftershocks, Summit participants were afforded the opportunity to share best practices and insights to employ in their respective communities and organizations.”

Shmidman added that it was “inspiring to see a group of women from different backgrounds and communities come together to support one another and learn from these experts. 

“Together, we reimagined new strategies for our organizations’ missions, programming and financial wellbeing,” she concluded.

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