Growing up as the youngest of three children, I had many opportunities to learn from my older brothers. They were not always cooperative, but usually they did enjoy teaching me new skills and watching me follow in their footsteps in my education, my involvement with B’nai B’rith Youth Organization and, at least for one of my brothers, in my career choice. So, I had no difficulty seeking out mentors in my career and later in Hadassah. This was a natural relationship for me in many ways.
The rewards from being mentored are often self-evident. When you have more experienced women to guide you along the way you benefit not only from their direct advice, but also from always having a trusted sounding board to hear your ideas and help you develop your own path forward, both in an organization like Hadassah and in life in general. Somehow being president of a group of 800 women or learning to be a doctor is not as scary when you know you have trusted people to turn to for advice and support. And, after numerous hours-long conversations, these women usually also become some of your dearest friends.
The first person I ever mentored was probably my little cousin Renee. From as far back as I can remember, she loved to follow me everywhere and copy everything I did. As is usually the case with younger relatives, at first, I found this annoying, but as we got older, it became endearing. She trusted me to guide her as she matured into a young woman. From that early experience, I learned that I could teach someone else valuable skills and gain pride from her accomplishments. I became more self-confident through the process. Our relationship grew into a true friendship also.
My next experience with both being a mentor and having mentors was in medical school and residency. The entire educational program of becoming a doctor in this country is based on an apprentice or mentoring model. The saying we all learn in training is “See one, do one, teach one.” As you progress from medical student to intern to resident to fully trained doctor, you rely on others more experienced than you to train you and quickly learn to pass these skills on to the students coming up behind you. One of the things you learn quickly is that teaching others is not only helpful to them, but also helps solidify your own knowledge and skill set. Nothing says mastery quite like being able to teach something to someone else.
My experiences with Hadassah have only reinforced for me how much can be gained by mentoring other women. I met a young woman, Delaney Rieke, when she first attended a Hadassah Desert Mountain Region conference. She was a young mother, new to the organization, and not yet sure how she would fit in with the group. With the encouragement of myself, and others in our region, she was president of her chapter within six months. I continued to support and encourage her growth over the next several years. She became a leadership fellow with the national organization and has started a new Hadassah chapter in Durango, Colorado when she moved there 3 years ago. She has told me that Hadassah has increased her self-confidence and taught her many leadership and professional skills that she has used to re-enter the work force and now to study business and get her college degree. Throughout it all, she would turn to me for advice and support. By mentoring her, I have had to increase my knowledge about all things Hadassah, fine tune my own leadership skills to teach her and gained self-confidence in my own abilities as she affirmed that I was indeed helping her. Most importantly, I have the rewards from knowing I have made a difference in someone else’s life. And of course, I have a lifelong friend.
There are many stories like that. Delaney was one of the first women I connected with as a mentor, but not the last. I have helped several of my friends that succeeded me as president. With these women, we were close before I began mentoring them. And I am sure each of them could elaborate on what they have gained from this new development in our relationship. For me, the rewards have been numerous. I have been proud, of course, to watch them become better leaders, both in Hadassah and in their professional lives. As with Delaney, I have had to learn more about the organization and dig deep in my toolkit to help them with their unique problems and questions. Best of all, I have new reasons to spend more time with these wonderful women.
Finally, there are the relationships I have developed as an advisor, or area vice president, to other chapters in our Hadassah Desert Mountain Region. In most of these situations the relationship begins in a formal capacity. My job is to advise the presidents of several chapters each year and help those chapters achieve their goals. Often, these presidents are mere acquaintances in the beginning. There are multiple phone calls, emails and pre-covid, usually an in-person visit over the year. Now those are replaced by Zoom meetings. The assistance can be with advice and support as with the other women, but also includes leadership training sessions for the entire chapter board. I have learned, by doing these trainings, how to organize an effect training and design a power point presentation. I have grown more comfortable with public speaking from these sessions and from speaking at their chapter events. These are skills that I can use in other areas of my life. And, again, there is the satisfaction of hearing from these emerging leaders that I have made a difference for them. And, as with all things Hadassah, these women also have become my friends. Hadassah’s slogan is “The Power of Women Who Do.” Hadassah has truly helped me develop into a better leader, teacher and friend through mentoring other women.