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Jewish Women Building Bridges for a Brighter Future

On International Women’s Day, Masa honored 12 inspiring female trailblazers.
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March 10, 2021
Photo courtesy Masa Israel Journey

March is International Women’s History Month, a global recognition of female leaders paving new paths for generations to come. In the last several years alone, the number of women in senior leadership positions in business has grown by 30% globally, with more women running Fortune 500 companies and leading IPOs than ever before.

These great strides didn’t happen overnight. Female leaders have been at the forefront of innovation for decades, changing the status quo on inclusion and persevering amid a pandemic to advance the companies and communities they serve.

Jewish women are at the center of this innovation through their community-building, advocacy and leadership. On International Women’s Day, Masa, Israel’s leading provider of long-term educational and career programs, honored these trailblazers by documenting their achievements on a list of “Masa’s Inspiring 12: Jewish Women Working to Make a Difference.” These powerful leaders have united Jewish communities worldwide with Israel by creating new programs and opportunities that empower the next generation.

On International Women’s Day, Masa honored 12 inspiring female trailblazers.

Dr. Maria Nadakka, who was born in Russia and made Aliyah at age 8, developed a unique formula that kills bacteria and destroys viruses like COVID-19. She and her colleagues at medical device maker Sonovia, created a cutting-edge reusable anti-pathogen mask that neutralizes 99% of bacteria and viruses. At Dr. Nadakka’s direction, hundreds of thousands of SonoMasks have been distributed worldwide during the pandemic.

Before receiving her B.A. and M.A. in Chemistry from Bar Ilan University, Nadakka served as a commander in the IDF’s Communications Forces. She then participated in multiple postdocs in Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. Dr. Nadakka is now a leading voice in the scientific community, where she inspires a new generation of female leaders in STEM.

Amira Ahronoviz is another Jewish woman who has made a significant impact during the pandemic. As CEO and director-general of the world’s largest Jewish nonprofit, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Ahronoviz welcomed 20,000 immigrants to Israel from 70 countries in 2020. She also helped at-risk communities secure loans during this time of economic uncertainty and helped launch JReady.org, a resource for Jewish communities to share best practices for safely reopening schools and promoting safe learning environments.

Building a safer world is also a passion of Marjorie Tolsdorf’s. The Columbia University alumna has devoted her life to gender-based violence prevention. As an undergraduate, she was honored for creating a system to prevent child abuse and gender-based violence through elementary education. As a Fulbright Scholar, Tolsdorf was horrified by the stark gender inequity and rampant femicide in the Bedouin community where she volunteered. This led her to complete a nine-month Yahel Social Change Fellowship with Masa, where she continued her dedication to violence prevention.

Alex Sanchez is yet another powerful Jewish woman who is making the world a better place. As the first-ever openly trans teacher in Israel, Sanchez has been featured across Israeli news for her commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and gender equity. In addition to her work teaching English at the Israeli Ministry of Education and the College of Management Academic Studies in Rishon LeZion, Sanchez’s advocacy led her to speak out against LGBTQ+ conversion therapy at a Knesset hearing. The former Masa Israel Teaching Fellow is also passionate about supporting the LGBTQ+ Olim community, of which she is a proud member. Sanchez’s favorite part about being in Israel is building a classroom environment where her students get excited about learning.

During a time when much of the world has been stuck inside their homes quarantining, storytelling has never been more important, and Nikki Schreiber is a master storyteller. The well-known Jewish influencer has attracted a captive following for her ability to showcase the human side of Judaism. Schreiber’s stories connect Jews of all ages and walks of life in their shared humanity and Judaism. She is the founder of Humans of Judaism, an online Jewish storytelling platform with more than 200,000 followers. Schreiber’s reach bridges contemporary Jewish lives with stories from the past and hopes for the future. Her stories continue a longstanding Jewish tradition of honoring one’s ancestors and Jewish history while simultaneously striving to create a better world for generations to come.

To read Masa’s full list, click here.


Benjamin Raziel is an Israeli journalist and novelist, based in Tel Aviv.

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