On May 7, 2024, the community gathered to celebrate multiple milestones for the Women’s Leadership Institute of Arizona (WLIAZ). The Celebration of Achievement event began at 6:00 pm as over 100 community members gathered in the outdoor amphitheater of the Valley of the Sun JCC.

The WLIAZ works to increase the presence of skilled women leaders in Jewish communal decision-making. Through one-on-one mentor/mentee meetings, dynamic group learning sessions, and community engagement programs, participants develop powerful leadership skills. They then work to implement impactful social service initiatives for the Phoenix Jewish community. This year’s celebration of achievement honored Cohort 8 as they graduated from their year of learning and growth. The following women were recognized:

Lindsay Hampshire
Jena Olgin
Nicole Perilstein
Shelly Rahav
Sophie Rehrig
Molly Reuben
Julie Runnels
Amber Sampson

The Celebration was particularly momentous this year as the WLIAZ also said farewell to their Founding Executive Director, Rabbi Elana Kanter, who announced her retirement from the organization in February 2024. Rabbi Kanter, who is a pillar of the greater Phoenix Jewish community, founded the organization in 2016 with the support of a small but impactful group of women. Over the years, the WLIAZ has grown immensely, and upon Rabbi Kanter’s departure, Rabbi Emily Langowitz was welcomed as the new Executive Director. Rabbi Langowitz, who has been in the Valley for 7 years, brings a depth of experience having served as the Assistant Rabbi of Temple Solel and more recently as the Union of Reform Judaism’s Assistant Director of Engagement and Learning.

During the event, outgoing Board Chair, Laura Drachler, was honored with the Women’s Leadership Award. This award has only been given once in the last eight years, and Drachler was the second recipient. Drachler was not only honored for her board service but also for her steadfast commitment to the entire Phoenix Jewish community.

Last, the 2024-2025 Board of Directors was also announced:

Jessielyn Hirschl, Board Chair
Becca Norton, Treasurer
Faith Boninger
Jamie Kornbluth
Laura Drachler, Immediate Past Board Chair

The entire WLIAZ community has immense gratitude for Rabbi Elana Kanter and Laura Drachler, and we look forward to the bright future ahead for the organization as we welcome Rabbi Emily Langowitz. To make a contribution in honor of Rabbi Kanter, Laura Drachler, Rabbi Langowitz, or any of the women honored as part of this event, please visit: www.womenlearning.org/donate.

For more information about the Women’s Leadership Institute, please visit www.womenlearning.org. Readers can also visit facebook.com/wliarizona or find WLI on Instagram @wliarizona.

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