Michelle Sarna, Empowering Orthodox women.


Michelle Sarna, 33

As a member of the New York University community for nine years, recently as an NYU Law School Tikvah post-doctoral scholar and previously as an NYU JLIC educator, Michelle Sarna was gratified when Shalhevet, NYU’s Orthodox student group, elected its first female president four years ago – succeeded by three more female presidents.

Yet, beyond the college campus, the Orthodox community continues to hold back talented and passionate women from serving their communities in senior leadership positions that reflect their capacities. Sarna's unique appreciation of this issue came from her experience balancing five children with completing her Ph.D. on the transition to adulthood, serving as the National Associate Director of JLIC, and coordinating the YCT Rabbinic Wives' program.

Sarna, a Gramercy resident who serves now as the director of the Edgies Childhood Center at the Educational Alliance, was motivated to engage a diverse group of Orthodox women leaders in meaningful conversation to inform public policy practices. She co-facilitates the Orthodox Women’s Leadership Project, an independent initiative she founded last year in partnership with Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community.

“Many Orthodox women are not being maximally engaged by Jewish communal life,” she says. “The caliber of the opportunities to be active community participants and leaders are not adequately compelling and the entire community is losing out.”

The group is in the process of crafting initiatives that will advocate for deliberate expansion of meaningful leadership opportunities for qualified Orthodox women, which she hopes “will enrich the entire Jewish community in the process.”

Globetrotter: Sarna has served as a volunteer teacher of Judaism in Ukraine and in Perth, Australia. Bridge builder: Her Ph.D. thesis at Fordham University was on “Emerging Adulthood in Muslim and Jewish Cohorts.” “I see striking parallels” in the two communities.