Tikkun Olam and Beyond: What Judaism means to our Women to Watch

The strong Jewish women leaders we feature for Women to Watch come from diverse backgrounds and fields. However, in common they have the Jewish wisdom that informs their work - whether in Jewish or secular fields. Values passed down from generation to generation, observance of ritual, and appreciation of our shared history connects the legacy of women honored at Women to Watch.

Every year, our honorees bring life and light to this event. Learn more about Women to Watch and join us this year to celebrate incredible Jewish leaders.

“My entire career is rooted in Jewish tradition as I seek to save classic Jewish recipes by making them healthier and less complicated. I include Jewish teaching in my talks to inspire others to connect with Judaism through enhancing the celebration of Shabbat and holidays.  I also bring my strong sense of community to my work as I have joined and helped build Jewish food communities, both online and in person. These communities help connect others with Jewish values and faith through food and bring people together no matter their level of observance or faith.”
Paula Shoyer, WTW 2015
The Kosher Baker
Chevy Chase, MD

“My parents always recognized Judaism as more than a religion. For them, it was a way of life, one devoted to spiritually always doing the right thing - to being compassionate and giving unto others. We went to synagogue on Friday nights, but I was always told that to possess a true Jewish soul, you did not need to look inside a temple, you just needed to look inside your heart. I have tried to live by that philosophy, and I hope our children will pass that on to their children as well.”
Linda Kaplan Thaler, WTW 2004
Chairman, Publicis Kaplan Thaler
New York, NY

“When I think of Jewish values, I realize that my parents instilled in my sisters and I that the most important thing is to lead by example. Be kind, patient and give back. We were taught that we should not just try but do. We should mirror what we want to see in the world. Our parents spoke about relevant issues that would come up in daily life and showed my sisters and I how these values fit into Jewish context. When you are volunteering your time for a person or group, explain why. Tikkun Olam (heal the world) “making the world a better place to live.“ Model this behavior for your children and find ways that they too can help.”
Marla Garchik, WTW 2017
Co-founder and CEO of Peace Love Solve
Boca Raton, FL

“I think that being Jewish, understanding Jewish history and regularly focusing as a Jew on this history of our people has made me more attuned to seeking to understand the history and experiences of other people who are marginalized or persecuted and the systems of oppression in society. In addition, my grandmother -- who lived her whole life helping others whether through charity and fundraising or by being the person to always make a seat at the table for someone in need of a meal or companionship, taught me by example the idea of tzedekah and chesed -- the moral obligation of giving and the need for love and kindness towards others. As I grew older, I also came to understand and appreciate the value of tikkun olam and how tzedekah and chesed are not enough on their own -- that we can't just address the symptoms but also need to repair the world -- which has become seminal to how I approach my work in my community.”
Nicky Goren, WTW 2016
President and CEO of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation
Washington, DC

“Being Jewish has always been an important part of my identity. My career as CEO Emeritus and Founder of Leadership Montgomery (MD) was devoted to developing leadership in over 2,000 women, men and youth. Further testament to my community service dedication is the numerous local, state and national boards where I've served, including currently on JSSA (Jewish Social Service Agency).”
Esther B. Newman, WTW 2011
Founder & Executive Director, Leadership Montgomery
Rockville, MD

“Being Jewish has been a central part of my life and my career. The idea of giving back to others less fortunate, having empathy, the importance of family and community—these are values  of mine that I think are critical and I attribute to my Jewish upbringing. The lessons my parents and grandparents taught me about respecting myself and others, honesty and integrity often came from both biblical stories and real-life family history told to me around Jewish holidays and Shabbat dinners. This has shaped who I am and I hope I can share with my son as well.”
Anna Isaacson, WTW 2017
Senior Vice President, Social Responsibility, National Football League
New York, NY

“The advice I give to anyone who asks is simple, "Always live your values."  My faith grounds my life and my existence.  Living my values has kept me humble, real, giving, genuine, hardworking, and philanthropic.  Living my values guides my choices and shapes my daily life.  My Judaism is the flame that fires my heart and soul.  My values enable me to live and breath Torah and my relationship with God into everything I do and every relationship I have.  My love of Judaism and the synagogue that I acquired as a child has fueled my life's work, my wonderful 42 year marriage, my motherhood and grandmotherhood, and all that I continue to do in retirement.  ”
Rabbi Amy R. Perlin, WTW 2012
Senior and Founding Rabbi of Temple B’nai Shalom
Fairfax Station, VA

“My childhood in Canton, Ohio was steeped in tzedakah. My grandfather, Paul Heller, was president of the Jewish Welfare Fund in our hometown.  I made my first gift of $5,000 to the UJA-Federation at a Cabinet Retreat in Israel when I was just 25 years old and starting out in business as a software sales representative. Adhering to the precepts of tzedakah, it was 10% of my net earnings and a stretch gift at the time. And, I’m still a strong supporter of causes in Israel.  My husband, Gary, and I were early adopters in the field of venture capital. When we established the Laura and Gary Lauder Family Venture Philanthropy Fund, it was only natural that we would combine the tenets of tzedakah with the techniques of venture capital.  My philanthropy is informed by ancient Jewish teachings and rooted in the mitzvah of tzedakah while attempting to catalyze progress.  I approach tzedakah through the lens of venture capital, with the aim of inspiring innovation to solve social challenges in our communities. Our foundation invests in visionary leaders and projects that have the potential to create lasting impact. This approach requires a high-tolerance for risk, a vigorous effort to learn from mistakes, and a strategic vision to stay focused on the larger goal. I take the Torah’s commandment to heart, that it is the responsibility of each generation to give back to the community in pursuit of making the world a better place.”
Laura Lauder, WTW 2004
Venture Philanthropist; Founder, DeLeT: Day School Teaching Through Leadership
Atherton, CA

Some quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.