“No Room at the Top” by Ann G. Wolfe
....I could give you statistics on how many women go into the fields of Jewish education, social work, community relations, or fund raising. Where do they end up?
How many ever get to be the executive of an agency, or the principal of the school, or the head of the department? The role models we use encourage our women to be teachers, not supervisors or principals; case workers, but rarely the executive of the child care or family agency; program specialists, but almost never the executive of the Jewish community center; the organizer of the women’s luncheon to raise money, but not the chief fund raiser. We remain the helpers, the do-ers, the devoted and loyal assistants, but for us, there seems to be no room at the top. We see this in our national organizations as well as in our local community agencies.
The greater part of what I’ve had to say so far comes out of my assessment that the male domination in Jewish communal structure has deprived women of the opportunity to share leadership at the top—leadership in the mainstream of Jewish life. Which leads me to the touchy subject of women’s organizations, sisterhoods, and other all-women activities…
My own observation through visits to communities across the country is that younger women and men, those who are looking for some affiliation with Jewish communal life, seek a more integrated setting. What these younger people argue is that they do not see the issues that need to be addressed as dividing into female and male areas. Certainly, the issues on your own agenda—juvenile crime and the criminal justice system, gun control, health insurance, income maintenance, Soviet Jewry—are not specially feminine. Is a concern with Arab propaganda more male? Why should that be? And is Jewish family life only for the mother? What is the father’s role?
On the other hand, I have noted the views of middle-aged and older women who have found great satisfaction through their work as members of women’s organizations. This is particularly true for women who have achieved leadership positions in women’s organizations and who treasure the autonomy of an all-women’s group. They maintain that women’s groups actually serve to multiply opportunities for leadership and mobilize a source of energy and power that move the over-all aims of the larger Jewish community. There may well be some truth to this argument.
I think that the future will see less separation between male and female participation in Jewish life but the time for abandoning women's groups, if that is to be, is not now. The larger women’s movement is one of the most significant social forces of the century, and whether one regrets this force or not, one should see it, I think, as the reality we will live with…
Text of "No Room at the Top" by Ann G. Wolfe, excerpted from NCJW’s journal, Council Woman 38 (January 1976).
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Jewish Women's Archive. "“No Room at the Top” by Ann G. Wolfe." (Viewed on September 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/media/no-room-at-top-by-ann-g-wolfe>.