By Miriam Abramovich
On Monday morning October 18, an extraordinary group of nearly two dozen professional community leaders representing agencies, organizations, and congregations from across Jewish Buffalo, will gather together for KOLOT Pro, a two-day women’s retreat which will explore what it means to bring authentic voices to Leadership. This Shabbat, in anticipation of KOLOT, we read one of our tradition’s most treasured parashiyot, Lech Lecha.
This parsha recounts the incredible narrative of Sara and her journey, and ultimate transformation, into a foundational figure of the Jewish people. The story is framed by Sara’s call to go, to leave her home with her husband Abraham. Her journey was rife with the physical stuff of traveling: preparation, schlepping, exhaustion, and navigating being a stranger in new lands. It also included emotional hurdles: being forced to pretend to be her husband’s sister because her beauty was so powerful (dangerous, perhaps), the heartbreak of infertility, and a fractured relationship with Hagar. Finally, at the sunset of her life, Sara communicates directly with God and, low and behold, she finds herself pregnant — at 90 years old!
In a world that was designed to subdue the voices and experiences of women, Sara’s story somehow made its way into our canon. She was a woman who struggled fiercely with herself and with her place at home and in community. Sara navigated being an outsider and a woman with limited tools and resources. And yet, she persisted, ultimately finding herself, her voice, her calling — and she lived an extraordinarily unique life.
Tara Mohr, author and expert on Women’s Leadership, in her book, Playing Big writes “today women have access to participate in a public life, a professional life, and the political life that is not yet reflective of women’s voices or women’s ways of thinking, doing and working. That means that as we participate in those realms, we’ll also often feel like outsiders, like strangers in a strange land. It’s our job to not run away from that but instead take up our small piece of the transition team’s work, sharing our ideas, our voices, our callings in a way that is authentic to us.”
The KOLOT Pro experience has been designed to cultivate trust among participants, and to support them in exploring and developing skills that have direct application to leadership work. When this group of women leaders gather next Monday — they will learn from Jewish texts, from facilitator Maya Dolgin, the founder and CEO of BraverMe, and from each other, to support and amplify their leadership voices across Jewish Buffalo.
Sara, like the women who will participate in KOLOT Pro, embody the name of this week’s parsha, Lech Lecha, translated to mean “go, get yourself.” Find your voice, trust it – and go, forward. We look forward to sharing their voices here and in the Jewish Journal of WNY in the weeks and months ahead.
Miriam Abramovich is Chief Experience Officer at the Buffalo Jewish Federation. KOLOT Pro is built off of the success of KOLOT: Bringing Our Authentic Voices to Leadership the October 2020 virtual women’s leadership retreat for members of the Federation’s Board of Governors.