Two Elephants in the Women's Room

The two elephants hiding in the room were confronted and 'outed' by an eminent panel of women this week as Female Bodies and Wealth at an event organised by UCL J-Soc and UJS on Monday evening.

The event considered whether there is a glass ceiling in the Jewish community for women.

It was chaired by Laura Marks, chair of the JLC Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership and featured such high profile women as Baroness Ruth Deech, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Jo Wagerman and Noga Zivan, CEO of ORT UK.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Reform Movement Rabbi, named the first elephant as women's bodies, a major barrier to career success in the Jewish community. "Our bodies are a barrier and a blessing", she said. "We are blessed with breast feeding", she told a packed audience of students, "but when we have children our bodies change how everyone sees you". Rabbi Janner-Klausner urged women to see that it is a joy and a privilege to be a Jewish woman as she encouraged the students to be educated about Jewish texts as the only way women can even join the debate about halachic barriers and so start to break them down.

Jo Wagerman, the only woman ever to have served as President of the Board of Deputies, questioned whether the Board has actually moved backwards since 1985. "As a woman you have to be good, but actually you have to be better than the men". Ms Wagerman named the second elephant as Wealth, a theme Baroness Deech went on to describe in detail. "Women," Deech asserted, "do not want to lead where it is wealth and wealth alone which defines leadership. They want a democratic leadership. A leadership characterized by wealth neither represents the community, nor gives it the influence and prestige that it needs and deserves."

Dr Noga Zivan gave a positive perspective on the issue of women in leadership. As a younger woman Dr Zivan advised women not to under appreciate themselves, not to be fooled by outward shows of confidence and to know when you need help and to ask for it. The glass ceiling, she asserted, is only there in our minds. Know what you want, she advised, and go and get it.

UJS Membership Services Officer, Emma Stone also wrote this comment piece about the issue of women in the community, available on the JC Website, just Click here

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