Five local women were honored as Women to Watch at the 15th annual celebration hosted by Jewish Women International on Monday.
Allyson Kapin, a founding partner of Rad Campaign; Linda Lipsen, CEO of the American Association for Justice; Laurie Moskowitz, senior director of U.S. campaigns for One.org; Paula Shoyer, a French-trained pastry chef and author of three books; and Lynn Morgan, co-founder and president of Morgan Language Services Corporation were feted by 620 attendees at a luncheon gala at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park.
Morgan was named the Sondra D. Bender Community Leadership Honoree for her work with the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish Social Service Agency and the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, which her three children attend.
Given the opportunity to share a “pearl of wisdom,” Morgan told the audience, “Be willing to say, ‘I will,’ when being given a leadership role, even if you’re not sure you’re up to the task.”
She described the award’s namesake as one of the “matriarchs of female philanthropic work” in Washington and added that she aspired to emulate Bender’s example through her volunteer efforts.
Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig of Washington Hebrew Congregation, along with other members of his synagogue’s clergy team, attended in support of Morgan.
“She’s a selfless volunteer,” said Lustig. “She works for the betterment of whatever organization she’s working for. She’s committed from top to bottom.”
Rounding out the 10 Women to Watch were Rebecca Alexander of New York, a psychotherapist and extreme athlete living with Usher Type III, an Ashkenazi genetic disease that causes deaf-blindness; Deborah Berebichez of New York, the first Mexican woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford University and a proponent of education in science, technology, engineering and math; Rabbi Sherre Hirsch of Los Angeles, who served as the first female rabbi of Sinai Temple and authored three books; Jane Randel of New York, co-founder of NO MORE and consultant to the NFL and NASCAR on issues concerning domestic violence and sexual assault; and Roberta Kaplan of New York, a litigator who represented Edie Windsor in the case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013.
Lori Weinstein, CEO of JWI, said the gala showed the “tapestry of achievement” found among Jewish women and added she hoped everyone left the luncheon “inspired and uplifted.”
The day prior to the annual gala, 120 young women participated in JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference where they received no-nonsense advice from former and current Women to Watch.
Lipsen, whose association members represented the Sept. 11 victims’ families pro bono, said in a panel discussion dedicated to managing and mentoring, “Don’t tell people what you don’t know, because no one knows what you don’t know unless you tell them.”
And don’t be afraid to take a seat at the table — literally.
Lipsen said too often she sees young women sit on the periphery of the board room instead of pulling up a chair at the conference table. Gala emcee Ellen Stone, executive vice president of marketing for Bravo and Oxygen Media, told the women about a scolding she received from Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook.
At a luncheon, Stone, not thinking she should sit right next to the author of Lean In, took a seat further away. Sandberg leaned over to her and said, “What are you doing? Lean in!”
Hirsch encouraged the young women to learn “humility and grit,” and added that their goal should not be happiness. Happiness, she said, “is a byproduct of leading a life of meaning.”
Girls achieve grapeness
Empowered young women are less likely to become victims of relationship abuse. With that in mind, several years ago, the historically Jewish sorority Sigma Delta Tau and JWI launched “Girls Achieve Grapeness,” a custom-blended purple OPI nail polish sold to raise funds for JWI’s work combatting domestic abuse and sexual assault.
The signature nail polish sells for $10 a bottle and 100 percent of the proceeds go to JWI’s programming in the areas of healthy relationship education, financial literacy programs for girls and women and the creation of children’s libraries in domestic violence shelters across the country.
In light of that partnership, Hannah Stein, a sister of Sigma Delta Tau at the University of Maryland, shared her story of how she became part of the 25 percent of young college women who are sexually assaulted each year. She urged the audience at JWI’s leadership conference this week to support the organization’s efforts to combat violence against women and thanked it for programming like Safe Smart Dating.
The award-winning series of programs, in which historically Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau is also a partner, tackles issues of alcohol and sexual assault, victim-blaming and abusive relationships.