Blazing trails of tikkun olam

Five local Jewish women who are making a difference

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Four thousand years ago, King Solomon described the ideal 'Woman of Valor," who "opens her mouth with wisdom," engaging tirelessly with the world (Proverbs 31).  Just in time for March's Women's History Month, we celebrate five remarkable Jewish women of valor who are making a difference in Chicago today.

 

Eve Reingold Kleinerman, Illinois Regional Director, Sharsheret

A Skokie native and a past Oy!Chicago 36 Under 36 winner, Eve Reingold Kleinerman brings a strong personal connection to her work at Sharsheret, a national nonprofit supporting Jewish women diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer.

"It says in the Torah, V'nishmartem Meod L'nafshoteichem --that a person must be particularly careful to safeguard their health….  Through my work at Sharsheret as a community educator, I bring lifesaving cancer education to our Jewish community.  Safeguarding my own health through cancer screening, while working to educate our Chicago Jewish community about their own cancer risk, allows me to fulfill the Torah value of V'nishmartem Meod L'nafshoteichem ."

 

Rabbi Marianne Novak, teacher, mental health advocate

Rabbi Marianne Novak devotes her life to Jewish education, teaching seventh and eighth graders at Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School; as Program Coordinator for Va'tichtov through Yeshivat Maharat, a writing fellowship for women with the goal of putting more women on the Judaic Sources bookshelf; as an instructor for the Florence Melton School of Adult Learning; teaching at the Jewish Learning Collab; and serving as Gabbait (leader) for the Skokie Women's Tefillah Group for the past 27 years.

Novak is also a devoted mental health advocate who advises for AMTE (@amitzvatoeat), an online group providing community for those whose medical or psychological care may come into conflict with Jewish observance. She's a Trained Support Group facilitator for LOSS--support for people who have lost loved ones to suicide.

"When I feel stuck…I remember that as long as what I am doing is L'shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven), I have the encouragement to make it through. So, my advice to women, and anyone for that matter, is to just go forward. If you know, or even have the slightest inkling that what you are doing can help even one person, then take the risk and do it. I believe God will help you, but you have to take the first step."

 

Michelle Friedman, Board Chair of Keshet, disability advocate, and life coach

Throughout her long career, Michelle Friedman has helped people transcend the limitations and barriers in their lives to achieve their goals. Friedman, who is blind, inspires through her children's book Close Your Eyes , about a young girl who is blind, as well as through her blog, blindpeopledontmingle.com . Friedman serves as the Board Chair of Keshet, bringing classroom experiences, camps, sports, social, and vocational activities, and residential opportunities to people with disabilities and special needs in the greater Chicago area. She also serves on the JDC Israel Unlimited Global Advisory committee, where she is a Disability Lead member.

"I'll always be a passionate disability advocate….  I am committed to working with communities and organizations to bring disabled representation to the tables of power and influence, and create a more inclusive and just world for my children and grandchildren!"

 

Alison Pure-Slovin, Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Midwest Region, and Trustee, Village of Skokie

As Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Midwest Region, and a Trustee of the Village of Skokie, Alison Pure-Slovin works to promote tolerance and fight antisemitism and bigotry in all forms. She lives by Rabbi Hillel's famous maxim: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  But if I am only for myself, what am I?  If not now, when?" (Pirkei Avot 1:14).

"Women are generally thought of as the prime caretaker of family and community, which is another way of describing working toward the betterment of others," Pure-Slovin said. "I must continue to live my passion so that I can be an example to my children, grandchildren, and others."

 

Caryn Fliegler, Clerk of Northfield Township, Grants Officer at T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, community leader, and gun control activist

A busy mom in Chicago's North Shore, Caryn Fliegler isn't content to let other people fight for causes she feels strongly about.  She spent two years co-leading the Illinois state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which has 30,000 volunteer members and 30 groups across the state.  

"No one should ever have to live with gun violence on a daily level. Ever," Fliegler said.  "As we know, it has become such a widespread problem that no one is safe anywhere….  I couldn't forgive myself if I sat on the sidelines and didn't do what I could to solve this problem." 

 

Dr. Yvette Alt Miller lives with her family in suburban Chicago.  Her latest book, Portraits of Valor: Heroic Jewish Women You Should Know , describes the lives of 40 remarkable women who inhabited different eras and lands, giving a sense of the vast diversity of Jewish experience.  


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