Last month, Audrey Axelrod Trachtman of New Rochelle was installed as the next AMIT national president. AMIT’s mission is to enable Israel’s youth to realize their potential, and strengthen Israeli society by educating and nurturing children from diverse backgrounds within a framework of academic excellence, Jewish values and Zionist ideals.
“I got involved with AMIT when I stopped working,” explained Trachtman. “Up to that point, when people tried to get me interested, I had a picture in my mind’s eye of my mother and grandmother going to luncheons and thought this isn’t for me.” Trachtman continued, “Once I stopped working, I was invited to go on a finance trip to Israel with AMIT’s senior management. I still wasn’t interested in luncheons but I knew a number of women from New Rochelle that I admired who were involved so I figured this was a good opportunity for me to find out what they really did and whether AMIT’s values meshed with mine. That was it for me; I was hooked. When I saw how serious and caring the teachers were, how smart and open the administration was and how many of the students came from impoverished communities and families, I became seriously involved.”
Trachtman brings a Wharton MBA with experience in strategy, finance, marketing and management to AMIT. “I bring a business perspective to our network. When you consider that we educate 35,000 students in 110 schools from north to south in Israel, AMIT really is a big business,” described Trachtman. “Our goal is not the same. Rather than earn money for our shareholders, we empower our students and provide the tools and access to the best education. We are especially serious about providing the kinds of skills that we think are necessary in a global world, how to work collaboratively, think critically and communicate effectively with Jewish values as our foundation.”
Female empowerment is one area in which Trachtman is specifically interested. “Unfortunately, in the periphery, in the more traditional communities, even if girls do extremely well in high school, there is not a strong drive for them to attend university. As a result, they are forced to take low-paying jobs and cannot climb out of the cycle of poverty,” reported Trachtman. “We are looking at partnering with municipalities to see how we can address this issue. Will mentoring work? Are scholarships better? We hope to have some answers soon.”
Trachtman added, “We are also always interested in growing our network because we want as many kids as possible to benefit from our education. Roughly 90-95% of our schools are religious schools but moving forward, we are looking to take over secular schools where we can also bring our brand of ethics predicated on democratic and Torah values.”
It is notable that many of AMIT’s national leadership over the years have come from the Westchester area and specifically New Rochelle. “I have learned people don’t give to organizations, they give to other people. If you know people that share your values and AMIT is their primary charity, you are more likely to look at it seriously. So, in one sense, success does breed success because the more people involved, the greater the chance to get others in the community involved,” explained Trachtman. However, the real reason AMIT resonates with so many people in New Rochelle is simple: “People care very much about both education and Israel and AMIT hits both those buckets spectacularly, our historical and unvarying commitment to the principle that everyone deserves an opportunity no matter where they come from and our religious philosophy is thoughtful and non-judgmental,” explained Trachtman.
By Judy Beger