By Mica Soffer – Publisher, COLlive
Photos: Sholem Srugo
The inaugural event of the newly-formed Batsheva organization has brought together 500 impactful Jewish women from across the globe in a positive and upbeat display of female empowerment.
Held at the luxurious landmark Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, the organization honored an array of women who are making a difference in their communities and the world, in the areas of business, science and the arts.
Batsheva, established by Gamercy Park Shluchim Rabbi Naftali and Sarah Rotenstreich, is named in memory of Rabbi Rotenstreich’s mother Mrs. Batsheva Rotenstreich, whose 14th yartzeit was on Sunday.
Sarah Rotenstreich, Director of Chabad Preschool of the Arts, noted that the organization is also named after the biblical Batsheva, wife of King David and mother of King Solomon, “who united the Jewish people and reigned over one the most venerated eras of peace and tranquility in Jewish history, representing royalty, wisdom, grace, leadership, and overcoming challenges.”
While directing a successful preschool in New York City, Sarah Rotenstreich said, she has come to realize “the amazing strength of today’s women, juggling everything from the boardroom to home responsibilities.”
Video: Sarah Rotenstreich Introduces Batsheva
“This is the time, women are rising in strength everywhere, and the response to the organization has been incredible,” Rotenstreich told COLlive.com, noting that “the long-term goal is to establish Batsheva in every major city in the world.”
The goal of Batsheva is two-fold, Rotenstreich explains. “On the spiritual front, we are creating a platform by bringing in the most thoughtful, spiritual thinkers of our time and sharing the depth of Judaism in a very meaningful way, which can relate to the most successful women of today.
“Our other message is that if a woman chooses to be a career woman, there should be no limitations to where she can reach,” Rotenstreich said. “We are finding that many women are somehow limited from going all the way to the top, so our mission is to connect with fortune 500 companies, and to bring to them the most qualified and successful women, who are just as, or perhaps more, successful than their C-level executives. We plan to put a spotlight on major companies, unfortunately, there are still many who do not have women on their boards and at the highest corporate levels.”
Chagit Sofiev-Leviev, President of Leviev USA, which oversees its extensive diamond and jewelry operations in the US, was presented with the CEO leadership award, for her achievements as a Jewish woman in the corporate world.
“Women empowerment is something close to my heart,” Leviev told COLlive.com. “I was given opportunities in my life, and this organization was established to help women that want to be empowered and progress in life, to meet the right people that can give them the extra push – women they can look up to, women that can inspire them and help them grow.”
Looking around the room, Leviev said: “There are so many successful Jewish women, just in this room alone, and this organization helps to bring them all together to inspire other women.”
Video: Chagit Leviev accepts the CEO Leadership Award
The keynote speech was given by Israel’s Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel, who praised Chabad for being at the forefront of Jewish women’s education.
Gamliel pointed out that the first organization the Rebbe set up was for Nshei Chabad – women of Chabad, “emphasizing the strength and the power of the Jewish woman all over the world,” she said.
“The inclusiveness and openness of Chabad to every Jew without any concern for one’s level of religion, is something truly amazing. This welcoming attitude taken by Chabad is work for Am Yisrael. Wherever I travel in the world, I always look for the Beit Chabad, and in every country, I find a warm and Jewish home that makes me feel right at home,” Gamliel said.
Video: Keynote speech by Minister Gila Gamliel
Gamliel related how her own relationship with Chabad goes back many years. Some years ago, when Gamliel was visiting New York, she visited the Ohel gravesite of the Rebbe in Queens, she said.
Later that day, while out shopping in New York City, she received some dollar bills as change. To her surprise, one of the bills was a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, given to an individual who had written his name and the date he received the dollar on the top. Gamliel had kept the dollar, and felt that it brought her great blessings in her life and career.
Years later, she said, while visiting the Chabad Shul in St. Petersburg, Russia, she related to the Chabad Rabbi that she had a dollar from the Rebbe, and showed it to him. Looking at the name on the top of the dollar, the Shliach said he knew who the owner was, that it was a childhood friend of his, a fellow Chabad Rabbi in Israel.
Through the Shliach, Gamliel was soon introduced to the Israeli Rabbi who not only agreed to allow her to keep the dollar, but gifted another one to her husband as well. A gesture, Gamliel said, “she will never forget.”
Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation and former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, received the Woman of Valor award for her tireless fight against breast cancer, raising almost 3 billion dollars for research, education and aid to women. Brinker paid tribute to her sister, Susan G. Komen, who died in 1980 of breast cancer.
“We created a movement in the days when we had no computers, no digital world, just phones and a will to grow an organization as a grassroots movement around the world, to make every woman aware, and every scientist and physician in the world aware, that it is their responsibility to help in this fight,” Brinker said.
The event also included a panel including actresses Rona-Lee Shim’on and Margarita Levieva, as well as a spirited fashion show exhibiting women fashion designers from Israel led by Kim Heyman, a fashion entrepreneur and Brand Ambassador for fashion’s emerging talents both in Tel Aviv and New York.
Adi Heyman, a fashion influencer and supporter of Jewish causes, received the Entrepreneur Award for her impact on the modest fashion industry. She said she was thrilled to be a part of Batsheva, being initially attracted to “the mission of positivity, empowerment and foresight.”
“Working in fashion, it’s something I thrive on and take inspiration from, so there’s kind of a beautiful synthesis working with them. The camaraderie, power and energy that exists when you get a group of 500 women together, unified by their religion, heritage and belief…the sky’s the limit,” Heyman said.