The WLI

In the Media

Mentor Spotlight: Susan Karesky

3/02/2022

Take a minute to get to know WLI mentor, Susan Karesky by reading the Q&A below!

Please share a few of your favorite things you have learned in the class sessions?

I have learned so much as a WLI mentor. One of the topics that really resonates with me is the growth mindset. I truly believe when we go about our lives with an open mind and enthusiasm for learning, we can do great things. I also enjoy how Rabbi Kanter links our study of leadership with concepts of Judaism. There is so much we can learn from our texts to help us all become better and more successful leaders.

How have you stayed involved with WLI since your year ended?

This is my second year as a mentor. This year I am a mentor in the first East Valley cohort! I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to help expand WLI to more women in the East Valley.

What is your occupation and have you been able to apply what you learned in WLI to your job?

My 34-year career as a public relations director at Banner Health, the largest healthcare provider in the Southwest, gave me a wide variety of opportunities to grow my leadership skills and lead communications strategies in complex situations. I now work as a freelance public relations specialist. During my career I mentored young professionals while also benefiting from some amazing mentors of my own. I hope the skills I learned as both a mentor and a mentee have helped me be a better mentor for my WLI mentees.

Please tell us more about yourself, your family and/or your involvement in the Jewish community.

Our family moved to Phoenix in 1968 and we were members of Temple Beth Israel back when the campus was in Phoenix. I’ve been involved in the Jewish community ever since, attending the JCC day camp and Camp Teva/Lebeau and working as a counselor at Camp Lebeau through high school. My husband Dan (z’ll) and I were married in 1987 and have twins who are 30 years old. David lives in Phoenix and works as a research project manager at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. Maryn lives in Los Angeles and works at Camp Ramah. Maryn was a mentee in cohort three, which is partially how I became a mentor! My second husband Ray also has two children, one of whom has given us three wonderful grandchildren. My children grew up at Temple Emanuel of Tempe, the East Valley JCC and Camp Pearlstein/Camp Stein. They developed a strong bond to Judaism through these experiences and gained wonderful friendships that remain close in adulthood. We’ve been members of Temple Emanuel for close to 30 years. I served as President of the Board of Trustees several years ago and held other board positions before that. It was, and is, an honor to serve our congregation to ensure the temple is a haven for spirituality and community for generations to come.

In your spare time what are some hobbies or activities you like to do? (and/or share some fun facts about yourself)

I wasn’t much of a hobby person while I was working full time and raising my kids. I’ve recently discovered, or rediscovered, the art of cooking. I am enjoying trying new and challenging recipes and learning how to make artisan breads (although my sour dough was an epic fail!) I also enjoy vegetable gardening, reading and needlepoint. In fact, one of my COVID projects was needlepointing tooth fairy pillows for my three grandsons. Our oldest has recently lost a couple teeth and was so excited to put his tooth in the pillow’s pocket!

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Mentor Spotlight: Amy Hummell

2/01/2022

Take a minute to get to know WLI mentor, Amy Hummell by reading the Q&A below!

Please share a few of your favorite things you have learned in the class sessions?

It is a toss-up if I enjoyed really getting to know the other mentors and mentees in my cohorts or the way Rabbi Elana Kanter was able to teach us about business through the lessons of Jewish scholars. The entire experience was wonderful especially how everyone involved took the class sessions seriously and were fully present each month.

How have you stayed involved with WLI since your year ended?

After being a mentor for Cohorts 3 & 4, I have continued participating in the WLI Alumnae programming starting with the overnight retreats and continuing with the online offerings.

What is your occupation and have you been able to apply what you learned in WLI to your job?

I am the executive director of Gesher Disability Resources, a Jewish disability agency founded in 1985 as the Council For Jews With Special Needs. The lessons learned from WLI are applied often, but more than that networking with the amazing Jewish professionals I met have benefitted the programming that is offered to our members. WLI volunteers are amazing, and WLI leaders are creative and resourceful.

Please tell us more about yourself, your family and/or your involvement in the Jewish community.

In 2006, my family moved to Phoenix to be near my dad and stepmom. At the time, my daughter was 5 years old, about to start kindergarten, and my son was 1 year old. We are three generations of members to Temple Kol Ami where I currently serve on the board and have for the past 5 years. My daughter went the route of NFTY with her friends and my son has chosen BBYO. We all enjoy being together for the Jewish holidays.

In your spare time what are some hobbies or activities you like to do? (and/or share some fun facts about yourself)

While we have always enjoyed watching tv as a family, the pandemic really brought us together in front of the screen. If it is crime drama, chick flick or Marvel, we have probably seen it. I also love hiking with friends, since it could be dangerous to go alone as I might get lost, and never tire of the desert scenery. We also enjoy a good dinner party with friends.

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Mentee Spotlight: Mikayla Laufer Stokes

1/18/2022

Take a minute to get to know WLI mentee, Mikayla Laufer Stokes by reading the Q&A below!

Please tell us about your project?

I had the opportunity to work with Jewish Free Loan and help the organization collect 70 impact stories for their 70th anniversary in 2020.

Please share a few of your favorite things you have learned in the class sessions?

I gained so much from the experience, but particularly enjoyed the learning we did around Jewish development and the reframing of a financial ask from being a burden to being an opportunity to assist someone in a mitzvah.

How have you stayed involved with WLI since your year ended?

I’m in contact with people from the WLI experience and am working with two current WLI mentees on their projects with ASU Hillel.

What is your occupation and have you been able to apply what you learned in WLI to your job?

I work within the Jewish nonprofit sector and I use the skills I learned with JFL and through WLI on a regular basis!

Please tell us more about yourself, your family and/or your involvement in the Jewish community.

I work for the Hillel Jewish Student Center at ASU as their Director of Engagement and work at Congregation Beth Israel in Scottsdale as a religious school teacher. I’m currently pursuing a masters in education from The George Washington University in Israel studies to continue to bring deeper content knowledge and a wider toolbox of teaching methods to Israel education in the Phoenix metro area. I’m married to the best guy and we have two cats.

In your spare time what are some hobbies or activities you like to do? (and/or share some fun facts about yourself)

I currently have basically no spare time but really enjoy reading, traveling, and baking!

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Mentor Spotlight: Dale Singer

1/04/2022

Take a minute to get to know WLI mentor, Dale Singer by reading the Q&A below!

Please share a few of your favorite things you have learned in the class sessions?

The active engagement of presenters, mentees and mentor around the core issues discussed in the class sessions expands my appreciation for the value of being a life time learner for continued growth. Differing perspectives on “not yet” and failures inherent in risk taking, often highlighted by personal narratives, continue to help me develop a broader definition of listening. The curriculum remains consistent with our heritage and it has been fun to witness how young women leaders are maximizing their effectiveness within the greater Jewish community through diverse, meaningful projects.

How have you stayed involved with WLI since your year ended?

Elana has invited me to participate in a variety of ways, including the opportunity to be a mentor in three cohorts, encouragement to participate as a team member and as a solo presenter, and the joy of helping to “cater” the Alumni Retreats.

What is your occupation and have you been able to apply what you learned in WLI to your job?

In reverse chronological order, I established and implemented the End of Life Program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, was a Pediatric Oncologist with a special interest in solid and rare malignancies, Chairperson of the Bioethics Committees at Children’s and Good Samaritan Hospitals, and a general pediatrician caring for chronically ill children and their siblings. The formal curriculums for each aspect of my professional life taught me the value of learning from those wise enough to teach others the skills needed for the tasks at hand. Retirement is as exciting as my professional years with opportunities to participate in a variety of classes and to explore a different concept of time.

Please tell us more about yourself, your family and/or your involvement in the Jewish community.

At our middle granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah, her father [our son] answered a colleague who asked, “How long has your daughter been preparing for her Bat Mitzvah?’ truthfully by saying, “for generations.” My husband, Alan, and I have two grown sons, two daughter-in-laws, five grandchildren. We had the good fortune of being in a lay led equalitarian congregation for sixteen years in Michigan from which we and our sons emerged with the skills and commitment to continue our involvement in our Jewish communities. Alan has been a mohel for 45 years and continues in this role post COVID vaccinations. All three of my men have, or are serving on boards of their synagogues. The grandchildren are active members of their communities, participating, teaching, and enjoying their roles. And, for many years, we have celebrated Seders in our sons’ homes where the grandchildren and I assist as they make the matzo and prepare the meals. We delight in a daughter-in-law’s leading of the Seder.

In your spare time what are some hobbies or activities you like to do? (and/or share some fun facts about yourself)

My passion is my family: nuclear and extended. In retirement, I have enjoyed the flexibility of being available without the constraints of a call schedule. We love hosting and visiting with our sons and their families, including ten years of Camp Savta/Saba in Phoenix, our siblings and spouses, nieces, nephews, cousins. Fortunately, many of our friends, and their children and families, also visit Chez Singer. I love to cook, bake, exercise daily alone or with “walking friends,” read and participate in a reading group, travel, do needlepoint, play Scrabble and Canasta, study Hebrew [for over ten years with Harriet Rosen as partner] and now classical Hebrew grammar, and just stare at the desert horizon appreciating how fortunate I am.

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Mentee Spotlight: Madeline Dolgin

12/21/2021

Take a minute to get to know WLI mentee, Madeline Dolgin by reading the Q&A below!

Please tell us about your project?

In March 2022, I am excited to launch an 8-week IYUN circle for young professionals ages 22-35. Each week I will co-teach on a new topic along with Rabbi Kanter. We will explore life’s big questions such as: When living in a world that is increasingly more secular, what is the role of religion and spirituality? How do we decide what our calling should be? In the age of sharing life events on social media, what is the impact of creating an online persona in the public realm?

Our 8 weeks together will culminate in a Shabbat retreat! This cohort will provide an exciting place for young jews to develop relationships and grow to love and want to continue the study of Torah. If you are interested in being on the email list to get updates when registration opens, please email madeline.dolgin@gmail.com.

Please share a few of your favorite things you have learned in the class sessions?

One of the most impactful lessons for me was about accepting failure. My current company has a coaching culture that is rather blunt in how they choose to provide feedback. When I first started, I focused a lot on the constructive criticism I was given and thought I must be terrible. During WLI, I was able to reframe and see those criticisms as exciting growth opportunities. Each comment I received fueled me to be better next time. I strongly believe that this mindset helped me get a promotion the next year!

How have you stayed involved with WLI since your year ended?

I have had the pleasure of attending a book club and celebrating havdalah at Rabbi Kanter and Rabbi Wasserman’s house with fellow WLI participants. I also had the opportunity to volunteer with my mentor and teach a sewing class for her camp kids!

What is your occupation and have you been able to apply what you learned in WLI to your job?

I currently work for ASU Online as a Senior Enrollment Advisor while completing my Master’s degree in Sustainability. I assist students throughout the application process and train new advisors. I also coach and lead my peers on several projects. WLI helped me self-reflect about my own leadership style. For me, one of the most valuable parts of WLI was the intergenerational nature of the participants. This allowed for a great diversity of perspectives and WLI gave me the confidence to speak up even if my opinion does not follow the status quo. I often lead and mentor colleagues who are older than me which felt really intimidating at first. The lessons from WLI helped me develop the confidence to own my role and not to feel shy about my age.

Please tell us more about yourself, your family and/or your involvement in the Jewish community.

I grew up locally in Scottsdale, Arizona. I attended Pardes Jewish day school for my early elementary school years and became a bat mitzvah at Temple Chai. I moved to New York City to attend college before moving back to accept a position as the Student Life Coordinator at ASU Hillel. I had the joy of having the most incredible first boss Debbie Yunker Kail, a WLI mentor herself, who taught me so much about how to be a good supervisee. I enjoyed the opportunity to help provide a community for Jewish college students and create new programs. I helped start a few new programs such as a Career Mentorship Program, 10-week Jewish Torah Study program, and a Mindfulness Cohort, and Interfaith Shabbat while serving at Hillel.

After Hillel, I began my Master’s Degree in Sustainability I am excited to graduate in December 2021 and currently am looking to pursue a career as a sustainability analyst or social impact professional. If you know of any jobs looking for a sustainability graduate, let me know!

This past year, I participated in Valley Beit Midrash’s first Social Justice Fellowship where I co-created a booklet called the Activists Guide for a More Sustainable and Equitable Food System, which provided tips that individual consumers can implement in their lives to be more sustainable when it comes to food. I also helped coordinate a food drive for refugees.

Lastly, I am very excited to share that I will be celebrating a very big Simcha in my life this upcoming March when I will be marrying my fiancé Mat! Mat and I look forward to this exciting new chapter and building a Jewish home together. We appreciate all of those in the Jewish community who have supported us in planning this celebration.

In your spare time what are some hobbies or activities you like to do? (and/or share some fun facts about yourself)

I am passionate about sustainability, dance, and biking!

I currently sit on the board of a local non-profit organization Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association. I host events that promote local sustainable fashion businesses such as pop-up shops and clothing swaps and educate consumers about the environmental issues in the fashion industry through our social media. I also host a podcast called Growing Together where I interview local fashion brands about their brand stories. You can find the podcast on Spotify here.

I have always loved dancing. I grew up doing musicals and local theaters and taking dance lessons around the valley. I am currently a member of an all-level women’s dance group called Swexy Squad. We perform at local dance events and fundraisers throughout the year.

Finally, I purchased an electric bike during the pandemic and have enjoyed riding around Tempe and Scottsdale. My bike goes up to 20 miles an hour so it is certainly an adventure!

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Mentor Spotlight: Faith Boninger

12/06/2021

Take a minute to get to know WLI mentor, Faith Boninger by reading the Q&A below!

Please share a few of your favorite things you have learned in the class sessions?

I really enjoyed working with other mentors when we did a bit of teaching. It was more about working together than the content of the sessions, though. As for content, my favorite things are Simon Sinek’s “The Power of Why,” and J.K. Rowling’s graduation speech. I learned a lot about life from Dale’s story of career (which she did at one of the retreats), and I was blown over when Ellen brought in the ERA banner that had been to so many marches for women’s rights.

How have you stayed involved with WLI since your year ended?

I just keep starting a new year!

What is your occupation and have you been able to apply what you learned in WLI to your job?

I’m a research professor in education at the University of Colorado Boulder. In that context I’m both a mentee and a mentor, so I bring what I learn in those roles back and forth between there and WLI. As a mentee, it means taking a lead, and as a mentor it means asking a lot of questions.

Please tell us more about yourself, your family and/or your involvement in the Jewish community.

My husband David and I have two daughters in their twenties, Alisa (who we’ve been so fortunate to have living with us this past year) and Talia (who currently lives in New Orleans). We’ve been members of Temple Solel since Talia was in the 3’s class at the Solel Preschool. Both girls went to Pardes Jewish Day School, and Talia was involved in both the temple youth group and camp. I have long appreciated how our various Jewish activities (including involvement with the Valley Interfaith Project and, of course, WLI) make us feel grounded in the community more generally rather than siloed in any one particular place. It was amazing for me to see, when our kids were in high school, how connected all the Jewish kids were — no matter where in the city they happened to be from. And it is fun for me now when I get a text telling me that this or that old Pardes classmate is on their way over to visit, or already here sleeping in one of the bedrooms.

In your spare time what are some hobbies or activities you like to do? (and/or share some fun facts about yourself)

I really enjoy cooking — which to me is arts and crafts, science, and cultural history. Between my own purchases and gifts I’ve received, I have an embarrassingly large collection of middle eastern cookbooks. It’s my favorite type of food, for sure, but I also love the photographs and the stories they contain. I guess it could also be said that I’m a very persistent runner. I don’t feel like one, but somehow or another I keep going out every 2-3 days and those days have added up to quite a few years! I’m not sure if I have more years running or more cookbooks!

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2020 Alumni Retreat

12/21/2020

Jewish News

The Women’s Leadership Institute held its second annual Alumni Retreat at the Spirit of the Desert Retreat Center in Carefree, AZ on Jan. 19 and 20 where leaders throughout the Jewish community gathered together.

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2019 WLI Graduation

12/20/2020

Jewish News

Featured in Jewish News

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Building Women’s Leadership Roles in the Community

12/20/2020

AZ Jewish Life

Rabbi Elana Kanter established the Women’s Jewish Learning Center in 2010 as a center for high-level Torah study for women. Part of the mission of the center is to help develop women’s leadership within the community. The Women’s Leadership Institute is helping to fulfill that mission.

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Out & About

1/30/2019

Jewish News

Alumna of the Women’s Leadership Institute take part in a retreat at Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center in Carefree. The retreat featured dynamic Jewish learning classes, an interfaith panel discussion and leadership-development courses. The retreat was funded in part by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix.

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Seekers of Meaning Podcast: Rabbi Elana Kanter and Harriet Rosen on Women’s Jewish Learning Center and Women’s Leadership Institute

6/15/2018

Jewish Sacred Aging

On this installment of the Seekers of Meaning Podcast, Rabbi Address chats with Rabbi Elana Kanter and Harriet Rosen, founders of the Women’s Jewish Learning Center and the Women’s Leadership Institute.

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Jewish Women Change the Landscape of Communal Life Through Mentorship and Study

5/27/2018

E-Jewish Philanthropy

When 1998 Covenant Award recipient Rabbi Elana Kanter established the Women’s Jewish Learning Center in Phoenix, Arizona in 2010, she often heard the same questions over and over: “Why are you starting a learning center for women only?” “Isn’t that a step backward?”

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