OU board member Efrat (Effie) Zisblatt is a doer. The Cornell and Stanford-educated lawyer who also holds an MA in Economics, has raised four children who are beautifully emulating her values of Torah U’maddah, and has served on the boards of various school and community organizations.
“I’m a hands-on person, and I want to use my voice and input to help benefit the institutions that touch my family,” she declared. “I don’t like to just opine from the sidelines, I like to participate.”
And participate she does, ever since she was approached two years ago by Moishe Bane, then the OU president, who asked if she would serve on the OU board. Someone who knows Efrat, her strengths, and her passion for the Jewish community, thought she would be a good match. (To this day, that nominating party remains unknown to Efrat). Efrat serves on three OU committees: OU-JLIC, Legal Services, and the Nominating and Board Resource committees.
“I’m particularly passionate about OU-JLIC because I have children who greatly benefit from the JLIC presence on their college campuses,” she explains. “The OU provides the scaffolding that lets our children get their education and not compromise any of their yiddishkeit, which empowers them on their mission. And I do view it as a mission to be in a secular environment while trying to make a kiddush Hashem.”
Efrat can relate: She was able to choose Cornell back when she was looking at colleges specifically because of the Jewish community and strong Jewish presence on campus. “I knew I could be successfully observant there, and it was really the only way I could go,” she explained. “Fast forward 20 plus years and I’m looking at colleges with my kids, and the first thing we did was reach out to the OU-JLIC couples on campuses so my children could find that similar support.”
When Efrat was recruited to join as an OU board member at the height of COVID, she was already familiar with JLIC, as well as OU summer programs, some of which her children had attended. Still, she enjoyed a fast education in the multiplex world of the OU.
“As I became more familiar with the OU through board meetings, I was surprised to learn of the breadth and depth of OU programming,” she said. “From the Semichas Chaver program, an interactive practical halacha learning program, to financial literacy education for the frum community, the OU turns ideas into full-bodied programs that serve the Jewish community worldwide.”
Efrat attributes much of the OU’s success to those at the helm.
“I’m very impressed by the refinement, thoughtfulness, and wisdom that OU leaders exhibit,” she said. “They are not only respectful of one another and in the discourse at board meetings, but they’re also genuinely interested in seeking the input and insight of others. I’ve been asked for my opinion on a lot of topics, and I appreciate that the leadership seeks new perspectives.”
On January 1, 2023, Efrat assumed the position of associate vice president on the executive committee, a new stage for her OU involvement.
“There are few bastions left of Orthodoxy as a value, a non-negotiable, and a beacon to others, and I feel like the OU is all of those things,” she declares proudly. “It enables me to eat kosher easily, for my children to attend secular colleges, and we are represented in government, among so many other environments. If our goal is to make a kiddush Hashem in the world, we have to have a representation that comes across in the most refined, articulate way. The OU does that.”
If Efrat’s professional allegiance is any indication, we should enjoy Efrat’s participation for many years to come; she has worked at the same boutique bankruptcy law firm since she was a law school summer associate, and 25 years later, she’s still there.
Efrat is first and foremost the proud wife of Dr. Uri Zisblatt and devoted mother of Yoni, 23 (and Talya), a Penn grad who is now pursuing a master’s degree at NYU Stern School of Business; Ellie, 21 (and Moti), a junior at Harvard; Daniella, 19, who plans to attend Princeton after she finishes her gap year at Michlalah; and Shoshana, 16, a junior at YULA Girls High School in Los Angeles.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.