Growing up in a family full of strong women, you would think I would know how to begin this blog. It’s taken me a while to be able to put into words the meaning of strength from something we feel and notice into something that is communicated.
When a positive person walks into a room, you can immediately see the energy coming off of them. They change (even just slightly) the temperature of the room or the conversation. They can affect almost every aspect of a meeting or a conversation without trying. It’s just who they are and what they embody.
When a strong woman walks into a room, you can feel it. The strength, power, confidence and drive are worn as badges. If you aren’t ready for it, the feeling can be intimidating. You know that this strong woman is a game-changer and the minute she experiences a challenge, she has the drive, the know-how and the competence to turn it into an opportunity.
Martha Silvershein & Eleanor Roosevelt
My Great-Grandmother Martha Silvershein was a powerhouse and a builder of communities. Martha helped found White Meadow Temple in 1952 and is considered the founding mother.
Let that sink in for a minute… 1952. In 1952, women were considered “happy homemakers.” My Great-Grandmother not only built her family, but she also helped build a community, found a Temple and helped the town thrive. This is just one of the incredible examples of the strength that Martha showed throughout her life and instilled into each of her three children.
I wish that I had been able to have these adult conversations and reflections with her. There are so many things that I wish I could have understood back then. The bonus is that she passed that strength through her children and the way they lived their lives is a reflection of that strength.
A few weeks ago we lost one of my childhood heroes, my Cousin Wendy Leeds. Let me set the stage for you. I’m a bored kid hanging out at a family event in New Jersey and spotted the “cool kids table” partying outside. My Cousin Wendy is wearing all black with a black leather jacket, dark sunglasses (I don’t even think it was sunny), smoking a cigarette and having a drink. My Grandmother Joy was the opposite of her wearing bright colors, put together and accessorized to the nines, with a cigarette in hand and having a drink.
Martha Silvershein, Marilyn Silvershein & Wendy Leeds
I finally got the nerve to head over and join the conversation. I’m not sure why it was such a moment of awe for me. I pulled up a chair and was brought right into the conversation by Wendy. Wendy was blunt, witty, charismatic and most importantly, she was real. We started talking about music, her role at a radio station, celebrity stories and more. Once she finished her drink, we went downstairs to her childhood bedroom. It was filled with albums, memorabilia and signed pictures. This was the moment where I got it. I finally knew who I wanted to be when I grew up.
My Cousin Wendy, throughout the years, has been the inspiration to my love for music, my desire to be in or near the music industry, my wardrobe (cheers to NY fashion where black is the new black) and my love of live events. Apologies to her husband Steven who was a good sport and sent me awesome tickets to a few festivals because Wendy didn’t want me sleeping out overnight to buy tickets.
I don’t think that’s where we can end the story of her inspiration. Most of all, Wendy was a warrior who handled her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) with spunk, character and grit. Rather than sit on the sidelines, my cousin rallied her community and raised money for MS through the annual Walk for Wendy.
Rachel Minion & Joy Freedman
Grandma Joy knew what she wanted, she knew what she didn’t want and she lived life by her own rules. It was my grandmother who took us to the track when we were kids, taught us to bet on the horses and showed us the fun in life. One of the famed stories about my grandmother was that she took her three daughters to the track rather than High Holy Day services. If you asked my grandmother about it, she would give you a wink filled with joy, fun and excitement. She always lived life on her terms and wasn’t interested in rules, excuses or boredom.
We can’t end this blog without talking about the strength of my mother. It almost feels like you need a WWE announcer to be able to get this introduction right. In this corner, you have my mother Debbie who defeated breast cancer, is a champion of Women’s Rights and is one of the most passionate people you will ever meet.
In the late 1980s, Mom attended the March in Washington for Women’s Rights and again the March in Chicago more recently. Even though I didn’t attend the March, I think it was one of those defining moments in a kid’s life. I think the way it was explained to me back then was that we have one life. You have an opportunity to make a difference and it might not be in your own life. It may be in another woman’s life. If you have the means and the resources to make that happen, do it.
Rachel Minion & Debbie Katz
You would think being in a family surrounded by strong women would be tough. Believe me, finding your footing can be tough, but look at the inspiration that surrounded me. These women are community builders who each lived life on their own terms.