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Launch of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community (AWP)

April 12, 2001

Reflecting frustration with the Jewish communal world's persistent glass ceiling, Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community (AWP) launched its first efforts on April 12, 2001. A project of the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy, itself founded by the United Jewish Communities (UJC), AWP was begun under the direction of founding President Shifra Bronznick and funded by New York philanthropists Barbara and Eric Dobkin.

AWP was launched out of recognition that although women had made significant gains in the business and secular non-profit world, female professionals still faced a long uphill battle in the field of Jewish communal service. When AWP began its work, only one of America's 40 largest Jewish Federations had a female CEO. A 1998 study of 45 major American Jewish organizations had revealed that fewer than half of them had ever had a single woman president or board chair. A 2000 study found only two women CEOs among 40 major Jewish agencies; the same study found that more than half of these agencies had no women in their top five salaried positions.

Bronznick explained that the "ultimate goals of the program are to help the Jewish community identify, attract, recruit, advance, and retain women in executive and management positions." AWP not only seeks to further individual women's careers, it works from the premise that enlarging the field of qualified Jewish communal leadership will help and strengthen the Jewish community as a whole. In a 2003 article in The Forward, Bronznick argued that women in leadership positions would likely help Jewish organizations "embrace diversity, flexibility and innovation," qualities that would be vital to the survival of organized Jewish life in America.

Within two years of AWP's creation, five major Jewish organizations (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Museum, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and the Jewish Agency for Israel) had elected a woman as president or chair, each for the first time in that organization's history. Bronznick called this development "the beginning of a historic change."

In 2008, AWP published Leveling the Playing Field: Advancing Women in Jewish Organizational Life, a how-to guide for championing gender equity in the workplace.

To learn more about Shifra Bronznick, visit Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution.

See also: Leveling the Playing Field at Jewesses With Attitude.

Sources: www.ujc.org/content_display.html?ArticleID=10464; www.forward.com/articles/9507; www.advancingwomen.org.

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Jewish Women's Archive. "This Week in History - Launch of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community (AWP)." (Viewed on April 23, 2014) <http://jwa.org/thisweek/apr/12/2001/awp>.