7 Jewish Businesswomen Who Inspire Me

There are a lot of people that I learn from in business, but the ones who inspire me most are those who I can identify with personally – fellow Orthodox Jewish women entrepreneurs. At the 2nd Kishor Conference in Jerusalem last week, I met over 200 religious women entrepreneurs and I was amazed by the sheer amount of talent, dedication and warm motherly energy that buzzed in the air.

The conference spurred me to think of 7 extraordinary religious Jewish business women who have all played  role inspiring my business approach:

Susie Fishbein

When my sister Mindy was visiting recently from Australia, we went to the bookstore where she bought Susie Fishbein’s latest book in her Kosher by Design series. My sister raved about how much she loves the books because the recipes are delish and look fabulous, and yet they are practical to make. Susie is a brilliant marketer, but with thousands of loyal customers like my sister, it’s clear that her real marketing secret is an outstanding product. Susie pioneered the new-style kosher cookbook that includes full-page glossy photographs of dishes prepared by professional food stylists. For a market where food plays such a central role in life, this was a stroke of genius and Susie has helped me understand the power of identifying a gaping hole in the market that has been overlooked for too long. Her approach has been so successful that her Kosher by Design series has sold close to half-a-million copies for Artscroll (an almost unheard-of figure in Jewish publishing). It has also spawned a new genre of “celebrity” kosher chefs producing high-quality glossy recipe publications. Since imitation is the highest form of flattery, clearly Suzie is inspiring many other marketers, beside myself.

Sarah Lipman

Even without really understanding what it means to be the CTO of a hi-tech firm like Power2B, I find Sarah Lipman to be one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs I know. And that’s because I worked with her in recent months to help organize the Kishor Conference. Sarah founded Kishor out of desire to help fellow frum professional women in Israel to network and receive support in their careers, and the organization she has built is quite incredible. As someone who runs a business almost single-handedly, I am amazed by Sarah’s ability to form a team, delegate responsibilities and inspire everyone to do an amazing job (and this is a volunteer organization). I have to admit that I have a tendency to want everything done perfect (read: MY WAY!!!), yet Sarah has shown me what can be achieved in an atmosphere of respectful and dedicated collaboration. Moreover, Kishor is powering forward with great vision even though Sarah has to leave, since she is moving to the US next month. This is possible due to Sarah’s wise cultivation of a broad leadership base from the very beginning, which is quite rare in non-profit organizations. Sarah – you’ve inspired me hugely and you will be seriously missed!

Anyu & Auntie Bobi

Anyu is my grandmother and Auntie Bobi is her older sister – and yes, we are Hungarians! The rest of the world knows them as Esther Grunfeld, of Grunfeld’s Kosher Catering, and Ellen Greenfield, of E & M Greenfield (one of Australia’s leading suppliers to the fashion industry). Both Anyu and Auntie Bobi are Holocaust survivors who came to Australia post-war and worked their whole lives to build something from nothing. They are both very successful, despite their different personalities and approaches to business. From them I have learnt about the value of hard work and making the most of your resources. Apparently, being a workaholic business-woman runs in our family! (In fact my sister Shoshana is also an entrepreneur, who has produced her own line of the most incredible skin-care products.) Ad 120 Anyu and Auntie Bobi.

Miriam Schwab

As the “Friendly CEO” of illuminea, a Jerusalem-based web development and marketing firm, Miriam Schwab has been someone that I have been admiring from afar for years. I’ve only actually spoken to her a few times (including at the Kishor Conference) but I follow her activities online and I’ve learned a lot from her. I admire how she has built a high-end brand that has a reputation as a top company specializing in WordPress development. I respect how she is careful about managing her online presence – friendly and helpful, yet professional. I’m inspired by how despite how busy and successful she is, she makes time to voluntarily contribute to professional events and organizations, such as the steering committee for Digital Eve, which is probably the best English-language professional networking group in Israel. She also gives her time to write blogs that are incredible resources for her colleagues. All these activities in turn raise her profile, and she then follows through with by delivering an outstanding product. I hope I don’t sound like I’ve been stalking you Miriam, but I really have learned so much just by following your career.

Gluckel of Hameln

I have no doubt that I am descended from Gluckel of Hameln. Perhaps she is not by ancestor by blood, but she is certainly my fairy god-safta in spirit. Her faith, writing talent and business acumen are a huge inspiration to me.  Gluckel was a real Jewish woman who lived in the 17th Century wrote her memoirs documenting the adventures of her life in what is now Germany. She and her husband traded in sort of goods and currencies and were very wealthy, though they lived in an era of terrible financial and political insecurity.  Besides mothering her 12 children and blessing God at every turn, Gluckel managed business transactions worth millions of dollars and princes were her clients. The book has been translated from the Yiddish into English, and I have read and re-read it many times. Gluckel –if you’re reading this blog from your high place, thank you for all the inspiration you give me.

Dina Friedman

I hesitate to include Dina in this list because her enterprise is sacred to me and many other Jewish women and it is strange to discuss it in cold, hard business terms. But the reality is that Dina Friedman is one of the most inspirational people I have encountered, and the business she has built is my ultimate inspiration. Dina, who is a member of Jerusalem’s Belzer chassidic community, pioneered a teleconference parenting program for Jewish mothers, teaching her own unique approach to parenting based on years of learning and experimenting. I took the program 3 years ago and besides gaining tremendous skills and confidence in my mothering abilities, I also discovered that Dina is the embodiment of everything I yearn to be in my business – outstanding, unique, ground-breaking, generous, true to herself and successful. Dina sets limits – her course only runs once a year for hundreds of participants. It is strictly via teleconference and it is almost impossible to contact her personally. Yet women who take the course love Dina and we feel that she has helped us so much personally. We enthusiastically recommend her to all the other Mommies on the park bench. In business terms, Dina has developed an incredible brand for marketing a boutique, self-service digital product that promotes itself via word-of-mouth and requires minimal customer service – the dream business model. And all of this without Facebook!

That’s my top 7. I am sure that there are many other Orthodox Jewish women running wonderful enterprises. I look forward to learning from them too!

Who has inspired you most in your business?
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  1. says

    We should probably add you to this list, Naomi! I still remember when you lent me Gluckel Hemeln’s memoirs to read – it is thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring!

  2. Tamara says

    Great article! I also have read Gluckel’s memoirs numerous times and must second your assessment!
    Sara Lipman will be sorely missed in Jerusalem!

  3. says

    Naomi, this is wonderful. Such varied women – and now I have something new to go find and read. I also enjoy your writing style, as usual. Thanks!

  4. Fonda Weiss says

    I’ve been asked to introduce Miriam Schwab who will be the keynote speaker later today for the PresenTense Global Summer Institute (where I am 1 of the 16 international fellows). Instead of just reading off her bio, with your permission, I’d like to quote your insightful words of recognition for Miriam Schwab.

    Thanks for your inspiration! And know that you, Naomi, inspire me!

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