JWI's "Women to Watch" ~ Who's There, Who's Not
Last week, Jewish Women International hosted their 2007 "Women to Watch" awards, described as "a celebration of extraordinary Jewish women and their impact on art, culture, and community; business, politics, and media; family, science, and spirituality."
I was interested in learning a bit about this year's honorees, so I checked out their bios on the JWI website. I was surprised to discover that the ten honorees don't seem to fully reflect the diversity encompassed by the categories identified above. With the exception of Miri Ben-Ari, a very sultry and talented Grammy award-winning hip-hop violinist who I've seen perform, along with the producer of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, and a practitioner/advocate in the field of family violence, the career trajectories of the remaining seven honorees are relatively uniform: they are presidents, CEOs, and founding directors of businesses, corporations, law firms, and political organizations. There aren't any rabbis, scholars, or educators. There are no visual artists. There are no doctors or women in the sciences. There are no writers.
I wasn't able to find the criteria for how the JWI honorees come to be selected each year, but the business skew of the 2007 honorees seems to be indicative of the business emphasis in the Jewish community at large. Although socially responsible businesses certainly do enable positive change (as many of the businesses represented by the honorees do), why is business so firmly validated or deserving of so much attention as an effective avenue for social change? Why are we watching out for CEOs and law firm executives and not watching out for activist rabbis? Or poets? Or labor rights advocates? As evident in the Jewish Women's Archive "Women Who Dared" exhibit which celebrates the brave actions and bold life choices of everyday Jewish female heroes in our midst, there's a wide breadth of fields that women enter to empower themselves and those around them as change agents. I would hope that this diversity continues to be recognized.