Michal Nagen, Mika Barkat, Dr. Maayan Morag, and Nitsan Safion inspire students every day at the mechinot that they lead. Today, in honor of International Women’s Day, we asked them to tell us about the women who inspire them.
Michal Nagen, head of Mechinat Tzahali: Queen Esther
“Esther, the hero of the Book of Esther, is my role model. She goes about a whole revolution, from a passive character controlled by her fate and the men around her to an active leader who takes along the entire royal court and changes the fate of her people and the direction in which the entire kingdom develops. She is the queen of all women who are assertive, ethical, self-aware, and prepared to take action for the sake of the public. These are the women who change history.”
Mika Barkat, head of Mechinat Haviva Reik: Haviva Reik
“The woman who gives me inspiration is naturally Haviva Reik, a woman who at all points in her life asked herself what the correct and necessary thing to do was, and then did it, whether at the HaShomer HaTza’ir nest, or in immigrating to the Land of Israel and founding a kibbutz, or in parachuting behind the lines of the Nazi enemy and organizing a revolt with local fighters. She inspires with her courage, inner strength, and strong faith in the spirit of man and woman.”
Dr. Maayan Morag, head of the IMPJ Mechina: Lesley Sachs
“A woman who gives me inspiration is Lesley Sachs, a social activist and leader of campaigns for gender equality and freedom of religion in Israel. In the past she was CEO of the Israel Women’s Network, CEO of the Israel Religious Action Center, and CEO of Women of the Wall. Lesley’s ability to lead campaigns for social change and her dedication to Israeli society are inspirational for me. As part of her campaign with Women of the Wall, she prays at the Western Wall with a tallit, is called up to the Torah using a Torah scroll (when they’re able to get it in), and leads women and men who are committed to the idea that Judaism belongs to all of us. The violence directed at her and the other women who come to pray doesn’t stop her, and she’s ready to pay a price for translating her values into reality. For that reason, she’s a role model for me and for the young women and men who are my students.”
Nitsan Safion, head of Mechinat Rut: Zivia Lubetkin
“Lubetkin was born in the town of Byteń in Eastern Poland. From her youth, she was a member of the pioneering movement Freiheit (Dror), and later she was a member of the HeChalutz leadership. When the war broke out, she found herself in Soviet-occupied territory, but in early 1940 she returned to German-controlled Warsaw to take part in her movement’s underground activity. In July 1942, during the great expulsion from Warsaw, Lubetkin was among the founders of the ZOB (Jewish Combat Organization), and from its inception, she played an important role in molding its character and path. Lubetkin took part in the first resistance action of the ZOB in January 1943, as well as in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that April. She spent the final days of the uprising in the bunker housing the organization’s headquarters at Mila 18 as a party member, and on May 10, she moved with a group of resisters via the sewers to the Aryan side of the city. Lubetkin spent the remainder of the war in the Underground and in hiding in Polish Warsaw, and she was among the ranks of the ZOB in the Polish Warsaw Uprising from August to October of 1944. After the war, she was active in the survivor community in Europe and among the organizers of the Bricha. In 1946, Lubetkin immigrated to Israel, where she was among the visionaries and founders of Kibbutz Lochamei HaGetaot and the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum. She served in key public posts for HaKibbutz HaMeuchad, and testified at the Eichmann trial.
“Her extensive life’s work and unending fight to realize Zionism and in behalf of what is good and just in the world are a source of inspiration for me and are an exemplary model for any girl or boy, woman or man, in Israel. She was an educator and counselor with all her heart and in all her essence, and she led her fellow movement members through horrific and challenging historical circumstances”—Nitsan Safion, head of Mechinat Rut, on Zivia Lubetkin
Her extensive life’s work and unending fight to realize Zionism and in behalf of what is good and just in the world are a source of inspiration for me and are an exemplary model for any girl or boy, woman or man, in Israel. She was an educator and counselor with all her heart and in all her essence, and she led her fellow movement members through horrific and challenging historical circumstances. She acted out of the courage of her heart and the strength of her spirit, and she always chose to rebel against what merited rebellion and to build what merited building.”