Those who follow the work of RespectAbility know that Lauren Appelbaum, our VP of Communications, is the incredible dynamic force behind our Hollywood Inclusion work. Lauren is also a deeply committed Jew, a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a superstar Jewish mom. It’s perhaps not surprising, therefore, that Jewish Women International chose Lauren to be part of its highly selective leadership cohort. Lauren is not just an amazing Jewish leader however, she is a remarkable Jewish leader with a disability, a living testament to the types of leaders that Jews with disabilities can be. In this column from the Jewish Journal, Lauren reminds us about the importance of including Jewish women with disabilities in our efforts to develop Jewish women leaders. I know that I and the rest of the RespectAbility team benefit every day from Lauren’s leadership. As you read the following article, consider how you might follow her example, and the example set by JWI, such that our Jewish community and society at large can benefit from this type of leadership.
Shabbat Shalom to you and yours!
Director of RespectAbility California and Jewish Leadership
by Lauren Appelbaum
As more Jewish programs provide women with increasing leadership and mentorship opportunities, it is important that all Jewish women are given an opportunity to succeed, including disabled women. In 2018, I acquired a disability due to a fall and was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, which affects my sympathetic nervous system in my right arm and leg, causing chronic pain. Twenty-five percent of Jewish adult women in the United States have a disability. Yet, often it is incorrectly assumed that women with disabilities cannot be in leadership roles.
This past year, I was honored to take part in Jewish Women International (JWI)’s Jewish Communal Women’s Leadership Project, created in part as a response to the #MeToo movement. With 75% of Jewish organizations scheduled to be looking for new top leadership in the next five years, the goal of this program is to support and mentor a select group of senior-level women seeking C-suite positions. I was one of 13 women to be in the pilot 2019-2020 cohort.