UJFT Women’s Cabinet welcomes new members

June 9, 2017

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On a less-than-sunny day in May, the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Women’s Cabinet held its annual Spring Lunch at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Virginia Beach. Weather woes kept the crowd intimate and the speaker from flying in from New York, altogether. But for those who attended, the event was fun, inspiring, and special.

Stephanie Calliott opened the event, welcoming all to the luncheon and sharing her feelings on completing her term of Cabinet leadership. She spoke of her confidence in passing the baton to her friend and fellow Cabinet member (incoming chair) Janet Mercadante. Keeping with the race theme, Calliott went on to say that campaign is not a sprint, but rather a long haul—a relay race, where year after year, new leaders take the baton and continue to run, while others retire from the field, exhausted, with a great sense of having moved things forward for the team (and in this case, the community).

Thanking her fellow executive committee and Cabinet members for their hard work and support during her tenure, Calliott then completed her final official duty as chair, installing the new executive committee, including her successor, Mercadante.

Calliott offered a special mazel tov to outgoing Leadership chair (and chair of this year’s nominating committee) Laura Gross. Gross was moved onto the Women’s Cabinet Honorary Board… where she will continue to serve the campaign and the community, alongside fellow past Women’s Cabinet chairs.

Mercadante, taking up the responsibilities of her new position, began her term by thanking the Cabinet members whose terms of service had been completed, and who were rotating off the Cabinet.

Completing their terms of service were Linda Fox-Jarvis, Alicia Friedman, Sharon Goldner, Anne Kramer, Marcie Mostofsky, and Dorothy Zimmerman.

Mercadante then welcomed and installed the 2018–2021 Women’s Cabinet. Members joining or renewing their membership on Cabinet include Susan Alper (new member), Ilana Benson, Stephanie Calliott, Elyse Cardon, Lynn Sher Cohen, Cheryl Dronzek (new member), Susan Hirschbiel, Stacey Neuman (new member), Sara Jo Rubin, and Megan Zuckerman (new member).

Mercadante took a moment to recount the campaign successes achieved by her predecessor, Stephanie Calliott, including 40 new milestone givers and a slew of record-breaking solicitation statistics. She also spoke about Calliott’s indomitable spirit, which influenced the entire cabinet, citing her ability to “push when she had to and pull when she needed to…to bring us all over the finish line together.” Mercadante then presented Calliott with a silver pomegranate statue, as a gift of appreciation for her term of service. In presenting the gift, Mercadante conveyed her hope that the legendary 613 seeds contained within a pomegranate would remind Calliott of “the many lives she’s touched through her work on the Cabinet and with the Federation.”

Mercadante recalled her personal journey to Women’s Cabinet Leadership… harkening back to a Women’s Leadership Mini Mission to the Virginia Holocaust Museum in 2009. Mercadante referred to herself as “one of those women who truly believed that Federation was not, and would never be, the ‘place for me.’” She explained, “I did not grow up in Tidewater. I was not ‘woven into’ the Jewish community here, as so many are. I did not come from a Federation background. I had a set of preconceived ideas about who the Federation was and was not.” All of those notions came to a grinding halt during that trip to the museum.

“Eight short years (and a lifetime ago), my relationship with the Federation and the Jewish community changed, and my life has been so enriched as a result,” she began. “Eight years and a lifetime later, I am standing here as your new Women’s Cabinet chair…still learning new and exciting things about the work we do and the programs we help make possible. Eight years and a lifetime later, I am grateful for the friendships I’ve made along my Federation journey. Eight years and a lifetime later, I am humbled to take the baton from my friend Stephanie Calliott and from all of the women leaders preceding her…women like Joyce Strelitz and Telsa Leon (of blessed memory) who I was privileged to know…however briefly…who came to meetings and events with hearts full of love and minds filled with brilliant ideas…about how we can each repair the world, a little bit at a time. Eight years and a lifetime later, I take the baton, and I run! Won’t you join me?”

Newly installed Cabinet vice chair, Mona Flax closed the meeting after thanking Laura Gross, this year’s nominating committee chair, and all who served on the nominating committee. “Never easy work, but so very important.” She also thanked all of the women who’ve served; who continue to serve; and who’ve just this year agreed to serve on Women’s Cabinet.

For more event photos, visit the Women’s Cabinet Facebook page at Jewish Women 757.

To learn more about the Women’s Campaign division of UJFT, visit www.jewishva. org/women. Photography by Mark Robbins

- Amy Zelenka UJFT Women’s Campaign Director

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