Ultra-Orthodox Women Act on Sheryl Sandberg's 'Lean In' Gospel

Starting a Business Can Be Kosher for Jewish Mothers

Marketing Meyvintes: Rosie Kraus (right) and Chavy, who would allow use of only her first name, launched their careers as entrepreneurs after watching episodes of the reality TV show ‘Shark Tank’ on YouTube.
shulamit seidler-feller
Marketing Meyvintes: Rosie Kraus (right) and Chavy, who would allow use of only her first name, launched their careers as entrepreneurs after watching episodes of the reality TV show ‘Shark Tank’ on YouTube.

By Anna Goldenberg

Published January 08, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Sheryl Sandberg has come to ultra-Orthodox Monsey, N.Y. — or at least her gospel has.

The walls of the Orthodox school assembly hall in which her message is delivered are bare white, but for three posters with Hebrew writing, and six larger-than-life paper teddy bears. But the roughly 100 women who fill the hall on a chilly Monday night in late December 2013 counterbalance the spartan venue with their impeccable dress, and with each hair on their wigs perfectly smoothed.

“An Evening of Excellence” is the event’s name, and once the audience has been hushed, Davii Mandel steps up to the stage and asks her audience, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

The question is a direct quote from the book “Lean In,” written by Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. Mandel, who owns a catering company, is one of four newly appointed leaders for the Monsey/Spring Valley city chapter of the Jewish Woman Entrepreneur.

Founded in 2011, the JWE is a growing not-for-profit group that connects Jewish women starting or running their own businesses. The vast majority of women who reach out to the JWE are traditionally observant: both Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox. After Baltimore, Monsey is the group’s second local chapter, and its formal roll-out is this very meeting. Eleven more city chapters in places such as Brooklyn; Lakewood, N.J.; Minneapolis; Cleveland, and Miami, are scheduled to kick off in the first few months of 2014.

The guest speaker this night is Judy Greenfield — a businesswoman, Satmar Hasid and mother of seven. The 41-year-old entrepreneur started selling tiles from her Monroe, N.Y., basement in 1996. Today she runs a multi-million dollar business that specializes in tiles and granite counter plates. Though her husband is her business partner, Greenfield says that she is the one making the big financial decisions.

Greenfield’s children range in age from three to 22. But when she goes on business trips, there is always someone in the family to step in, Greenfield explains — she has 13 siblings, and her husband has 11.

“My kids call me four times a day,” she tells the audience. “It’s not either/or; you can run a business and still be a good mother.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.