In honor of 50 years of women in the rabbinate, Rabbi Cohen asked the female past presidents to reflect on how gender affected our approach. I truly appreciate the opportunity to respond to this thoughtful question. When I began my tenure, I was keenly aware that only a handful of women had served in that role, and I had wonderful role models in past leaders Joan Golder, Diana Kaufmann, and Julie Ford. All of them, including myself, brought special skills to the table, not necessarily because we were women, but rather because we all brought different life experiences and different perspectives to the job.

When I was asked to be President, I gave a lot of thought to what I could contribute based on my own experiences. To be honest, gender never entered into my thinking. One of the most important experiences was my 25 years as owner of a service business, and I tried to bring business principles to the temple’s operations such as marketing, human resources, and budgeting. I also applied my work as a speech therapist, social justice chair, and participant in other non-profits to offer creative programming and board development.

Being President was a wonderful experience and I expected that my leadership skills would be enriched, but I did not expect that being President would deepen my own connection to Judaism. Being President allowed me to participate, not just observe, so many facets of Temple that I had never done as a congregant, from attending special services to Torah study, education opportunities, and many Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Those experiences deepened my connection to both the temple and my faith, and I am eternally grateful for having been given those opportunities.

There are differences between men and women in leadership roles because they are different people with different life experiences and skills to share. Gender in and of itself did not play a role in my presidency—though my life experiences did.

While we are celebrating women in the rabbinate, perhaps we should consider a different question: how can we promote and facilitate bringing more women into leadership roles within the temple?

I hope this article starts that conversation!