JWI’s 2017 Women to Watch Awards – Jen Maxfield Ostfeld

JWI’s 2017 Women to Watch Awards – Jen Maxfield Ostfeld

Pearls of Wisdom

Speech delivered in December 2017 upon accepting the “Jewish Women to Watch” award in Washington, DC

As a local news reporter for the last 17 years, I estimate I’ve had the opportunity to interview at least 9000 people on camera for the more than 3000 stories I’ve reported during that time.  And please understand that when I say I interviewed them, I don’t mean on the phone, or quoting their tweets, or that a field producer did the interview and fed it back to me at the office.  These are face-to-face meetings, looking in each other’s eyes, shaking hands, laughing with, and crying with, close to ten-thousand people.

It’s an incredible privilege to tell other people’s stories.  And it’s a great responsibility to get those stories right.  Just six weeks ago, I spoke for close to an hour with Jimmy Drake, whose son was one of 8 people killed by a terrorist in New York City–  Darren Drake was just riding his bike on the path in Tribeca when he was mowed down.  My conversation with Darren’s dad was so personal and painful, and yet I had just met him.  He wanted to tell me all about his wonderful son, and my photographer and I wanted to listen.

More than anything, we all want to connect.  It’s such an essential human instinct, and yet I worry sometimes that we are losing some of that when we conduct so many of our relationships through texting and emails.

My story assignments at NBC 4 in New York have led me into so many people’s lives– I often say that I’m with some people on their best days, and others on their worst.  Figuratively stepping into another person’s shoes and literally walking into their homes has truly informed my own philanthropy.  Spending time in a successful inner-City charter school in Newark reinforces my focus on equal access to education, and visiting families in public housing apartments In Brooklyn with no healthy food– and in some cases no heat– validates my efforts to provide fresh food and rental assistance to people in need.

And that’s why I know JWI is providing such essential services around the world.  They aren’t just writing checks– although let’s face it, that’s important– they are supporting women and girls in face-to-face, hands-on programs.  People who are suffering want to connect, they need to know that they’re not alone and that other people care.  JWI helps break the cycle of isolation– whether it’s because of poverty or domestic violence.  And JWI celebrates the joy of coming together with their emphasis on mentoring and encouraging young women to demand equality.

So thank you to everyone for coming out here today, and taking time to connect with each other and with me.  I am humbled and honored to be sharing the stage with my nine fellow honorees and I am inspired by all of you.