For the first time in its 95-year history, AMIT has included men on its formerly all-female board of directors, a move that dovetails with a trend in America’s corporate boards to create more diversity and gender parity.
The new board members and AMIT’s new national president, Audrey Axelrod Trachtman, were elected in June and began their terms in September. The men are Alexander Luxenberg of Great Neck, Avi Adelsberg and Jared Isaac of Manhattan, Evan Jerome of New Rochelle, and Evan Green of Los Angeles.
“It became clear that we needed a broader range of opinions,” said AMIT Executive Vice President Andrew Goldsmith. “We felt it would be a growth opportunity on every level.”
The AMIT board is charged with setting policy and approving strategic plans, among its other duties. Board members are volunteers who contribute their time and money to the organization.
“It felt wrong to completely exclude men from serving as leaders of AMIT,” Axelrod Trachtman said. “Why exclude half the population? You can get a better board if the pool you are selecting from is greater.”
“The same way AMIT in Israel represents innovation, education and 21st century skills, I want the board to be a place that is generating new ideas and developing new constituencies, to be a place of dynamism and excitement, and to generate ideas that will continue to help Israel,” she continued.
Not everyone was anxious to change the gender composition of the board, Goldsmith said.
“Initially, I was very hesitant,” said board member Dr. Francine Stein, a past national president of AMIT and currently chairwoman of the board of the American Zionist Movement. “Not because of men per se, but because of the position of Orthodox Jewish women on the world stage. AMIT was unique in giving Orthodox women leadership roles. With AMIT, we automatically had a seat at the table. While it’s still early to tell, I think the change will be an exciting one.”
The organization first known as Mizrachi Women, AMIT was founded in 1925 by Bessie Gotsfeld, a housewife-turned-Zionist activist who pushed the “pushke” culture of women dropping a few coins into their tzedakah boxes before lighting Shabbat candles into a full-blown female fundraising movement on behalf of Palestine.
Gotsfeld and her cohorts were unhappy with the status quo in which men were deciding how to spend the money the women were raising. She took the reins of the organization and decided how those funds would be allocated.
From its start, AMIT was a woman’s organization focused on the educational needs of girls and creating a home for disadvantaged children being resettled in Israel. Today, AMIT is considered an educational powerhouse — ranked number one by Israel’s Education Ministry — and serves more than 36,000 children in more than 30 cities in Israel. Its slogan is "Building Israel. One Child at a Time."
Great Neck’s Luxenberg, one of the male board members, is a client partner at Facebook who works with its largest client partners. He has held a number of roles in media and e-commerce, including leading a retail marketplace at INTURN, sales at Twitter, and FP&A at American Express.
He “hopes to bring my knowledge and background in marketing, branding, and social media to AMIT,” said Luxenberg, 30, who already has worked with AMIT’s marketing team. “My first job is to listen, which men could probably do more of in general. I have a lot to learn from the women who lead AMIT and I am excited to gain from their perspectives. Ultimately, AMIT exists to serve the children in Israel, and I hope through my involvement more men become passionate about the cause,” he said.
Board member Evan Green, founder and chairman of Personiv, a business process outsourcing company, said, “I think my background in business, as an entrepreneur and as a visionary are my strengths and I hope to bring new ideas and get traction with those ideas.”
“AMIT is producing miracles and creating breakthroughs, but we can do better,” the Los Angeles resident said. “I hope I can add a fresh perspective and an entrepreneurial approach to the issues and challenges confronting the organization.”
“Men and women are fundamentally different,” he continued. “They have different perspectives and different life experiences. The more diverse, the more powerful any board can be. It’s going to take a wide variety of people and perspectives to fully capitalize and leverage those opportunities.”
“Historically, organizations that have stayed true to their founding ideals and mission and have embraced change as necessary, not only have staying power, but also the potential to move into the future with great success,” an AMIT spokesperson said. “That is the hope for AMIT.”