Jerusalemite Sari Revkin was among 50 Israeli women recognized as most influential by business magazine Lady Globes in an elegant gala event hosted this past Wednesday by the Carmel Forest Spa Resort. The annual review, in its second running, spotlights leading women in areas of business and finance; the public sector; justice and advocacy; academia, medicine and research; culture and arts; and society and community.
Rachel Li-el, Director of Shatil, a professional empowerment and training center allied with the New Israel Fund, was also honored for her work and achievements in the area of society and community. The selection of two Jerusalemites, Revkin and Li-el, among the seven in the society and community category, indicates that Jerusalem is a center of social change activity in the country.
The list was compiled from a combination of recommendations by Globes newspaper staff, spokespeople, business organizations, word-of-mouth and e-mail networking. Lady Globes Editor-in-Chief Hagit Peleg-Rotem says the evaluation committee was on the lookout for "prominent women effecting sustainable change in their fields" and rated their "entrepreneurship, initiative, independence, influence on society and their organizations," with particular emphasis on work done in the previous year.
The purpose of the compilation is to "highlight and celebrate" successful women, says Peleg-Rotem, who added that "as long as women don't hold enough high-ranking positions relative to their representation in the general population, there is a need to bring to the public's attention the places where they do succeed."
Sari Revkin is the founder and executive director of Yedid, a social justice organization that "works to effect social change by empowering citizens to realize their rights and helping them to help themselves."
Her office is smaller than one would expect for a director. Snapshots of her kids, post-it-notes, and various social change literature and images adorn the walls; her desk and bookcase are overflowing with binders, booklets, and paperwork. She quickly brushes off a table and relocates the clutter.
Revkin's success as a woman of influence speaks through her convivial, easy-going nature. She pairs reflection with vision and vision with initiative.
With charming awkwardness she says, "I'm obviously pleased by [the recognition]," and laughing adds, "Obviously pleased by a night at the Carmel Forest Spa."
The 50-year-old divorced mother of two is a New York native with graduate degrees in social work and community organizing. In 1983 she made aliya to Israel from the States with her then husband and they spent their first year in a kibbutz in the North.
But she missed the city and when she saw an employment ad for directing Shatil (the same organization that Li-el now directs), she answered it.
"I had forgotten all about it, got a call two weeks later and came for an interview. My life turned around 180 degrees within 48 hours," she recalls.
Revkin helped found Shatil and was its director for 14 years. She left in 1997.
"I wanted to reach out to people whom nobody reaches out to to help them see what's in their interest, how can they work in their interest, and with that I founded Yedid," she explains.
With some 25 years of experience in the field of social change to her credit, Revkin observes, "when you work in the area of social change, you don't see change very quickly and you don't necessarily see your influence on a daily basis... we tend to look at what's yet to do and not at what has been accomplished."
The Lady Globes celebration on the other hand is "an opportunity that gets you the half-full portion of the cup it's a nice way to keep the morale up and the drive going."
When Revkin speculates on the reason for her inclusion in the list, she doesn't distinguish between herself and Yedid. She says that although influence is frequently defined by how present a person is in the press, Yedid included, she emphasizes the significance of concrete change. "Over eight years, we've helped 100,000 people, which in Israeli terms is a lot of people to touch. I would hope that's one of the things [the committee] looks at as well," she notes.
Revkin addresses the importance of creating a public forum for positive acknowledgement of women. "I think that you don't usually think about women as having influence the idea is to showcase the women that are really effective and influential and movers and may not always be the ones who are thought of when considering who's making a difference."
Interestingly, the award is presented by a newspaper known better for its coverage of the finance world than the world of social change. Revkin says of her award and the recognition of the social-change organizations, "When there's an article in the business section of the newspaper it's more prestigious than an article in the social affairs section of the paper – it's clearly more of a stamp of approval."
The ceremony's schedule of events included two hours of mingling and networking, which Revkin used as a rare opportunity to "learn from each other – in the voluntary field, I've heard and seen what there is to see in our world but there's a whole other world that I know less about," referencing in particular the business sector.
"I think if we want to be effective in social change we have to be sure not to isolate and marginalize ourselves. I think actually the finance world is one of the areas where we [social change organizations] need to find partners in order to bring the kinds of changes that we really need to happen."