This week we feature Northeast District President Sharon Sobel in WRJ's Leadership Spotlight. In addition to her WRJ work, Sharon is a professor of English at The University of Connecticut and Norwalk Community College, where she teaches writing and literature. Her Ph.D. from Brandeis University is in the 19th-century British Novels but says teaching at public universities usually involves dealing with very 21st-century matters. Sharon is also the president of a non-profit corporation that donates over $100,000 each year to local charities.
She is also a romance novelist, with sixteen published novels and novellas and – oddly – a popular series of Regency Christmas anthologies. She served on the Board of Romance Writers of America for eight years and continues to be active on committees.
Sharon has been married for 49 years and raised their three children in Boston, The Hague, and in an 18th-century farmhouse in Wilton, Connecticut. Sharon says they were always too busy to relegate all the toys to the barn; therefore, the house is always ready for visits from their granddaughters and grandson.
Here are Sharon's thoughts on being a WRJ leader.
How did you first become involved with WRJ? What was your journey to becoming a WRJ District President?
I served on the Sisterhood Board of Temple B'nai Chaim in Georgetown, Connecticut, for nearly forty years, managing to be president at least once in each of five decades. My introduction to WRJ came early in my sisterhood experience. I attended conventions and events back in the nineties, and my sisterhood hosted an area event where I met other local sisterhood leaders.
I became President of the Northeast District after years of serving on the Board as Convention and Kallah chair, Chair of the By-laws and Constitution Committees, YES Fund Chair, and in other services to the District. On the North American Board of WRJ, I co-chaired the 2017 Fried Leadership Conference in Charleston, South Carolina, and was a member of the Resolutions Committee.
What positive things have happened as part of your leadership experience?
Among the many positive attributes of engagement in these three years is the keen sense of community with women who share a mission and learning by experience and example about how to impact its growth and success.
What do you love most about WRJ?
Though many outcomes have been achieved, and we remain in the fight for justice, the finest outcome of all these years of service has been the great friendships that have been made and will continue after my tenure is done. This is punctuated daily with phone calls, cards, and meetings just for the sake of being together.
What do you wish others knew about WRJ that they might not know already?
I believe that we need to demonstrate and then reinforce the power of WRJ membership for sisterhood leaders and individual members. We can do many impactful things in our own small groups, but when that is tied to the strength of an international organization, our influence is vastly compounded.
What advice do you have for future WRJ leaders?
All leaders – including those first finding their footing in WRJ – should always be mindful of keeping a strong sense of equanimity, with the understanding that we are surrounded by people who feel just as strongly about their point of view as we do about ours. Opening the door to allow for everyone to enter not only disarms any perception of cliquishness but presents the possibility that every woman, so committed and so passionate, can influence an outcome.