Andrea Stillman: A WRJ Leadership Spotlight

April 19, 2024Andrea Stillman and Gracie Cohen

This week, Women of Reform Judaism interviewed Executive Committee member and Mid-Atlantic District President Andrea Stillman. Read more to learn about her leadership journey with WRJ, and watch Andrea’s video Q&A here. 

How did you come to be a WRJ leader?

That's a very easy answer for me. Somebody asked me to step up and apply. First it was to be a sisterhood president, and then I was encouraged to apply for the WRJ board. And once on the WRJ board, I felt an obligation to serve at the district level. None of the incredible roles I had, executive committee member, district president, or sisterhood president, were in my sights. I am grateful to those women who asked.


Who is one leader (WRJ or anyone else) you admire? Why?

Without hesitation, it is Rabbi Marla Feldman. During my whole career, I seem to have reported to many who micromanaged and were authoritative. Instead of bringing out the best of me, they eroded my self-confidence. Even though I was promoted and had pay raises, things that would tell you otherwise, they were not tapping into my skills, and they certainly were un-stoking my enthusiasm. When I became a new WRJ North American board member, Marla asked me to participate in an equal pay panel that we were doing for the Social Justice Conference. Long story short, Marla had to go to leave for Israel, and left me in charge of working and planning the workshop with an outside speaker. And as I would with my jobs, I asked her: 

  1. Where do I send it?
  2. Do you want me to call you?
  3. Do you want me to text you?

And she told me: Please don't. None of those things. You work it out and you'll fill me in when I get back.

I will never forget how empowered and motivated I felt at that moment. It was lifechanging for me, and I only hope I can do the same for others.

Tell us about a moment that called for your leadership. 

I was asked to create a new product proposal for a board retreat in what I considered an unrealistic amount of time. It couldn't be done without my entire staff working extremely long hours and with the cooperation of other department heads. It took everything I had to convince them to buy into the project, inspire them to be creative and motivate them, even though their only reward was producing a result they could be proud of. I am so thrilled, and I always remember because, as a team, we accomplished our goal. There was a little bit of adrenaline mixed in there as well. The board voted to move forward on it, and it not only became a profit center for the company, it filled an important niche in the marketplace.

Last year, you wrote about the intersection of climate change, gender, and poverty. Is there anything you’d like to reflect on during your time with WRJ on these issues/any leadership message you want to share to help make a difference? 

To me, climate change is the biggest challenge we face today. It is imperative that we do something now to protect our planet and all the living things that depend on its health. It is also deep Jewish value. But what is less known to many is that climate change affects women and girls more acutely because it multiplies all of the existing imbalances and injustices already existing in society. Things that WRJ cares about: lower pay access to education, reproductive rights, disparities in agriculture, lower access to healthcare and natural resources, vulnerability to gender-based violence, prostitution, early marriage, and migration, to name a few, are all exasperated by climate change.

And although women often are on the front line, they are not often brought to the table to offer strategies, suggest solutions, or make decisions. There are many out there who believe that if we gain ground on gender equity, we will gain ground on climate change. I would love to see WRJ be the messenger for that.

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My Not-So-Traditional Leadership Story

How did you wind up on WRJ’s Board? My journey to WRJ’s Board is different than many, and I hope it can encourage others that there is more than one path to WRJ leadership. I participated in my sisterhood’s activities and WRJ District activities, but I had not served in leadership on either level.