OU Announces the Creation of the Department of Women’s Initiatives

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24 Oct 2017

The Orthodox Union, the nation’s oldest and largest umbrella organization for the Orthodox Jewish community, today announced the creation of the Department of Women’s Initiatives to coordinate all of the OU’s programming for women. Rebbetzin Dr. Adina Shmidman will lead the new department, which will be committed to advancing the spiritual, religious and communal involvement of women at all stages of life and within all segments of the Orthodox community.

“We want to create programs that will inspire women of all ages and stages to find their personal leadership voice – to lead others and lead themselves toward greater religious growth,” said Dr. Shmidman, a dynamic community leader and teacher for more than two decades in New York, Alabama and Pennsylvania. Dr. Shmidman, whose doctorate is in Educational Psychology, currently serves as the rebbetzin of the Lower Merion Synagogue of Bala Cynwyd, PA. She is the founding chair of the Rebbetzin Elaine Wolf a”h Rebbetzin to Rebbetzin Mentoring Program at Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future. She will begin as Director of the Department of Women’s Initiatives on November 1, 2017. “By strengthening our commitment to women, we hope to advance spiritual, religious and communal engagement and infuse lives with renewed energy and meaning,” she added.

“The OU is committed to putting its full array of resources into this bold new department,” said OU President Moishe Bane, “and dedicating all means necessary to ensure that every woman in our community is not only connected, but feels encouraged to grow and reach new spiritual heights.”

Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President of the OU, said, ”I’m excited that after an extensive, nationwide search, Dr. Shmidman has agreed to undertake this role and to shape the OU’s commitment to encouraging female Orthodox leadership for the next century, and to enhancing the Orthodox experience for women across the continuum of Jewish life.” Allen Fagin served on the search committee along with OU Officers Etta Brandman Klaristenfeld, Barbara Lehmann Siegel, Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike, Esther Williams and OU President Moishe Bane, who was responsible for forming the committee.

“We want to create a department that meets the challenges religious women face and will continue to face in the 21st century. Whether spiritual, professional or health-related challenges, we wanted to ensure that Orthodox women have all the resources they need,” said Etta Brandman Klaristenfeld, member of the OU executive committee and an attorney at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. “We envision the Women’s Initiative as being a center of innovation, integration and growth for women in the Orthodox community,” agreed Marian Stoltz-Loike, Dean, Lander College for Women, and an expert on diversity and work-life issues.

The OU will implement the department’s new programs and initiatives through its extensive network of hundreds of OU synagogues, more than 200 NCSY locations, Yachad’s 12 regional chapters, and OU-JLIC’s 24 campuses, as well as engaging and partnering with local communal and national institutions.

Some of the many initiatives that the OU hopes to implement within this new department include:

“The OU has included women in its most senior professional and lay leadership roles for quite some time. We believe that the Women’s Initiative can establish an even more robust pipeline of leadership talent,” said search committee member Esther Williams.

“It is critical that our communities’ women be inspired, engaged and growing in their avodat Hashem,” said OU Executive Committee member and Senior Vice President, attorney Barbara Lehmann Siegel. “We applaud the OU for its leadership in seizing this opportunity to assure that this crucial goal becomes a reality.”