NEW YORK, NY — To mark Israel’s 75th birthday, Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, introduces its inaugural list of women who are shaping the future of Zionism: 18 American Zionist Women You Should Know.
The list represents the diversity of Zionism today and the many ways in which women are building bridges and making an impact — whether they are on Jeopardy! (actress, author and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik) or on Wall Street (financial leader Zoya Raynes), in the pulpit (Rabbi Rachel Marder) or in the media (award-winning producer Daniella Greenbaum Davis), making news (Israeli human rights activist Emily Schrader) or empowering those who bring the news to us (media advocate Leah Soibel).
The 18 women come from across America, from California to Colorado and New York to Texas, as well as from Israel, to which some have made aliyah. They bring together multifaceted identities, including Hispanic American (Soibel), Iranian Los Angeleno (advocate and attorney Shiva Beck), Chinese American (educator and online activist Amy Albertson), Iranian American (award-winning columnist Tabby Refael) and Ukrainian American (communal professional and entrepreneur Ana Sazonov).
Said Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow, “Just as they have since before Israel’s founding, women are helping to shape and guide Israel's future, both behind the scenes and in the public square. As the leading women’s Zionist organization in the US, Hadassah is proud to shine a spotlight on these trailblazing women.”
“The 18 visionary, determined women on our list are doing essential work, individually and collectively,” said Hadassah CEO Naomi Adler. “They are educating Jews and non-Jews about what Zionism is and is not and advocating for Zionism in the US and around the world. Everyone who cares about Israel should know their names.”
THE LIST (in alphabetical order by last name)
1. Amy Albertson – Advocate, educator and online activist. The recipient of the Women's International Zionist Organization's Warrior for Israel Award, Amy Albertson empowers young Jews to be unapologetically Jewish. In 2015, she made aliyah and dedicated herself to working for Jewish nonprofits. Exploring her own identity led to her current work as a consultant for the At The Well Project and an associate at the Tel Aviv Institute. It also led her to create "The Asian Israeli," which catalogs her experiences as a Chinese American Jewish woman. Get to know Amy Albertson in the special "Israel at 75" May/June issue of Hadassah Magazine.
2. Shiva Beck – Advocate and attorney. Shiva Beck was born in Iran to a proud Zionist family who fled to Los Angeles after the Islamic Revolution. Having grown up in a close-knit Persian community knowing that the greatest safeguard to her Jewish identity was Israel, she retired after nearly 20 years practicing law to focus on advocating for Zionism in the US and around the world. Beck is a board member of the Jewish Federation in Dallas and The Jewish Agency and provides pro bono legal services to disabled children and adults. For full bio, click here.
3. Laura Ben-David – Photographer, writer, speaker and marketing professional. Laura Ben-David uses her talents to share her passions, among them Israel and the Jewish people, and to build bridges between people. Formerly the head of social media at Nefesh B'Nefesh, she is now the director of marketing at Shavei Israel. Ben-David, who made aliyah in 2002, is the author of Moving Up: An Aliyah Journal. For full bio, click here.
4. Mayim Bialik – Actress, author and neuroscientist. Mayim Bialik is well-known as a successful performer(Blossom, Call Me Kat, The Big Bang Theory) and the current host of Jeopardy! who took a break from acting to earn a BS and a PhD in neuroscience from UCLA. She is also a filmmaker who wrote and directed the star-studded feature As They Made Us and a prolific author two of whose books reached #1 on The New York Times Best Sellers list. She frequently contributes to Jewish publications. For full bio, click here.
5. Daniella Greenbaum Davis – Award-winning producer and columnist. Daniella Greenbaum Davis is an Emmy Award-winning producer and columnist whose work has appeared on ABC and PBS and in the pages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. She frequently covers stories about Judaism, antisemitism and Israel. For full bio, click here.
6. Rayna Rose Exelbierd – Entrepreneur, motivational speaker and youth mentor. Rayna Rose Exelbierd is a proud Zionist and Jewish woman who, through workshops and lectures, empowers non-Jews to learn Jewish history and develop relationships with the Jewish community. She is the founder and CEO of The Rose Grows and host of a podcast of the same name during which she shares personal stories of facing and fighting antisemitism. Exelbierd has mentored thousands of students around the world and published two books, The Girl Who Said Hello to Everyone and The Girl Who Wore Two Different Shoes. For full bio, click here.
7. Rabbi Rachel Marder – Rabbi and writer. Rachel Marder, the associate rabbi at Congregation Beth El in South Orange, NJ, graduated from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, where she was a Wexner Graduate Fellow, in 2018. Before rabbinical school, she made aliyah and lived in Israel for several years, working as a writer and editor at The Jerusalem Post. She contributed a chapter to The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate and holds a BA in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies and an MA in conflict research, management and resolution. For full bio, click here.
8. Megan Nathan – Philanthropy professional and Israel advocate. As the program and special initiatives director at Kirsh Philanthropies, Megan Nathan oversees the Shine A Light initiative, which raises awareness about antisemitism through education, community partnerships, workplace engagement and advocacy, and helps steward Jewish- and Israel-related grantmaking in the US. Previously, as COO of the Israel on Campus Coalition, she provided American students with the resources to support Israel on campus and in their communities. For full bio, click here.
9. Zoya Raynes– Wall Street leader. A 20-year career in finance has taken the Kiev-born Zoya Raynes to Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and now Bank of America, where she is a managing director advising hedge fund, asset manager, pension, insurance and sovereign wealth fund clients. Raynes is on the board of several major Jewish philanthropies, was one of The Jewish Week's "36 Under 36" and has been honored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the Jewish Heritage Program. Get to know Zoya Raynes in the special "Israel at 75" May/June issue of Hadassah Magazine.
10. Tabby Refael – Award-winning editorial columnist. Born in Iran after the Islamic Revolution, Tabby Refael received US refugee asylum in 1990s after fleeing Iran with her family. Also a survivor of the Iran-Iraq War, she is known for writing about Iran, Israel, Jewish identity, women's rights and Mizrahi advocacy in her column for The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Refael co-founded 30 Years After, America’s only civic action organization for Iranian American Jews. Get to know Tabby Refael in the special "Israel at 75" May/June issue of Hadassah Magazine.
11. Danielle Rugoff – Nonprofit management and policy professional. Danielle Rugoff believes in community-building, civic engagement and the power of individuals to change the world. Now Senior Director of Movement Programs for Starts With Us, which fights extreme political and cultural divisions, she has more than 20 years' experience focused on the US-Israel relationship, American foreign policy and Jewish peoplehood. For full bio, click here.
12. Ana Sazonov – nonprofit leader and entrepreneur. Born in Ukraine to a non-Jewish mother and a father who repressed his Jewish identity, Ana Sazonov uncovered hers through a program of the IDF and The Jewish Agency and later converted to Judaism. The former executive director of the Columbia Jewish Federation in South Carolina and an advocate for Ukrainian refugees, she founded JewBer, a startup that delivered kosher meals to medical professionals, low-income seniors and Holocaust survivors during COVID. Sazonov holds an MA from the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program at Brandeis. For full bio, click here.
13. Emily Schrader – Israeli human rights activist and journalist. A senior Ynet correspondent known for giving her more than 175,000 social media followers concise answers to tough questions about Israel's political and historical reality, Emily Schrader established herself as the leading voice for the Iranian people in Israel with her coverage of the ongoing Iranian uprisings. In 2022, she was named one of The Algemeiner's Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life and the Sixth Most Influential Israeli Woman on Twitter by Raash Digital. For full bio, click here.
14. Naava Shafner – Social activist and strategic consultant. Naava Shafner, who made aliyah at 12 years old, has spearheaded changes in Israeli legislation, most significantly, legislation allowing flexible paternity leave. Named one of Israel's top-50 social activists in 2016, she has pioneered social initiatives focused on women's rights. These include ImaKadima, which advocates for family-friendly workplaces. Shafner, a strategic fundraising consultant for nonprofits in the social-change sphere, was part of a successful appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding women's rights in the mikvah. For full bio, click here.
15. Leah Soibel – Founder and media advocate. Leah Soibel has spent more than 15 years in Israel, the US and Latin America empowering global Latino journalists and media influencers. In 2012, she founded the Emmy Award-winning Fuente Latina, which ensures accuracy in Spanish-language reporting on Israel, the Jewish world and the Mideast. She recently launched Activista Media, the first English/Spanish digital news brand to engage the next generation of English-dominant, non-Jewish US Latino journalists, influencers and online news consumers about Jews, antisemitism and Israel. Get to know Leah Soibel in the special "Israel at 75" May/June issue of Hadassah Magazine.
16. Margot Stern – Entrepreneur, strategic thinker and visionary. For more than 15 years, Margot Stern has advised companies on global strategic management, private equity, consulting, growth plans and business strategy. Since moving to Israel in 2006, she has worked at the World Jewish Congress, the European Jewish Fund and the Jewish Diplomatic Corps. She is the chief strategy officer and acting CFO for ReaGenics Ltd., an Israeli biotech company, and the founder of StellarNova Ltd., an award-winning Israeli children’s edutainment company focused on science education. For full bio, click here.
17. ChayaLeah Sufrin – Educator and community builder. Whether spending time at the Shalom Hartman Institute, leading trips to Israel for young Jews and non-Jews or advocating for Israel on campus, ChayaLeah Sufrin is not afraid to have tough conversations about the issues facing Israel and the Jews. She also has the unusual ability to simultaneously inhabit the Hasidic world of the Chabad community and the secular world of modern Jews. The executive director of the Long Beach Hillel in Long Beach, Calif., Sufrin cohosts the podcast Ask a Jew, which covers culture, politics, humor and life. For full bio, click here.
18. Melissa Weiss – News editor and strategic communications expert. Melissa Weiss, who made aliyah in 2022, is the executive editor of Jewish Insider, the daily newsletter at the nexus of politics, philanthropy, business and the Jewish community. Before joining JI, she spent nearly a decade working in strategic communications in the nonprofit sector, heading strategy at The Israel Project and the Israel on Campus Coalition before restarting the Simon Wiesenthal Center's campus outreach program. For full bio, click here.
Illustrations by Laura Rosenberg, @ellerose_draws