Channeling Esther: Honoring Jewish Women’s Leadership


Newton Centre, MA —March 2016. On Purim, the personal becomes political for the celebrated heroines in the Book of Esther. Queen Vashti refuses the king’s summons to be paraded about in front of his drunken court of men and is banished for her subversive act. Queen Esther evolves from a reluctant messenger into a savvy heroine who outmaneuvers the male leadership and ensures the survival of the Jewish People. 

In the spirit of Purim, Hebrew College will celebrate the impact of Jewish women’s leadership at its annual gala, Celebrate 2016: Honoring Women's Leadership and Philanthropy. Who better to exemplify women breaking down barriers than Gala keynote speaker, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ellen Goodman, one of the first to open up the op-ed pages to women’s voices? Goodman began her career as a researcher for Newsweek at a time when only men wrote for the newsweekly. She shattered the mold of male exclusivity when she became a syndicated columnist, writing about politics, at The Boston Globe in 1976.

In her talk, “Leaning In, and Up,” Goodman will reflect on the challenges and successes women leaders have faced in the ensuing years and the role of women in the political sphere. As Goodman explained in a recent interview, “Women in politics is a huge part of the leadership question. Women have advanced much further in other careers than in politics. Fifty percent of medical school and law school students are women; compare that with Congress at only twenty percent women. Politics is where public policy takes place. What kind of society do we want to be? Women need to be involved in that discussion.” 

The evening will honor four outstanding women with the Esther Award for Leadership and Philanthropy, Geraldine Acuña-Sunshine, Winnie Sandler Grinspoon, Sari Anne Rapkin, and Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller z”l, who passed away in August 2015. Collectively, their leadership, involvement, and philanthropy has impacted the Jewish world—at Hebrew College, in the Greater Boston area, and beyond. 

The Gala will take place at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA on Tuesday, March 22, at 5:30 p.m. For ways to celebrate the honorees, please visit or call (617) 559-8766.


Hebrew College, founded in 1921, promotes excellence in Jewish learning and leadership within a pluralistic environment of open inquiry, intellectual rigor, personal engagement and spiritual creativity. Its programs include a Rabbinical School, a School of Jewish Music, a School of Jewish Education, and graduate degrees and courses in Jewish studies; community education for adult learners; and a supplemental Hebrew high school and middle school. For more information, visit