Living a Life of Leadership and Giving: A Conversation with Andrea Mail
A visionary leader, connector, and community builder, Andrea Mail lives a life full of positive energy and passion. She’s a wife and a mother to three teenage daughters, and she’s also a Harvard graduate, Rotary Scholar, certified life coach, active member of multiple nonprofit boards, and the Marketing and Communications Chair of the JWRP Board.
Having studied social anthropology, lived and traveled all over the world, and participated in institutions of every Jewish affiliation, Andrea is a true unifier, adept at building bridges and infusing communities with the spirit that drives her. Andrea shared with us her personal leadership journey, why she believes women are natural community builders, and advice for women who want to make a difference in their communities.
How did you first become passionate about leadership and community building?
I’m from a family of strong Jewish women, and from early on, I saw women taking on leadership roles both in my family and community. My parents loved bringing people from all backgrounds into our home, and always encouraged us to look for the best in others and to support people who were taking initiative to make the world a better place. At the time, I didn’t realize that these were actually Jewish values!
In college, I studied social anthropology and learned that sharing ideas and appreciating where others come from is vital to becoming part of a community. Everyone wants to belong somewhere. When I traveled to Israel, I realized that it was my destiny to contribute to the Jewish community.
What is one way that you’ve seen the impact of your community building work?
Five years ago, I traveled to Israel with the JWRP with a group from Jacksonville, led by City Leader Henny Fisch. This year, for the first time, the JWRP is partnering with the Jewish Federation in Jacksonville, along with Etz Chaim, our original Jacksonville partner. This will enable us to double the number of Jacksonville-based women participating in the MOMentum experience. Most of them will visit Israel for their first time, and when they return, they’ll have the opportunity to get involved in the Jewish Federation and other local Jewish organizations. I truly believe in the JWRP’s tenet that when we work together, we can achieve so much more.
How has the JWRP mission inspired your passion for community building?
Lori Palatnik has stated that while one drop of water may not obviously affect a stone, a trickle of water can. If, every day, we work on ourselves to embody Jewish values, and recognize that this is a journey and not simply a checklist, then we can add so much meaning to the world. The JWRP stresses the importance of being the best person you can be, not judging others, and connecting to our Divine spark and sharing it with the world. Each day, I try to do just that, and of course, I am a work in progress.
Why do you think that women have a special role to play in community building?
Research has shown that women naturally benefit from working together. They tend to be collaborative, and having more than one woman on a board often leads to positive communication. Women are natural community builders — both as mothers and outside of their homes. We need to continue tapping into our power.
What advice can you give to other women who want to take on leadership roles in their communities?
First, figure out what energizes and inspires you, and then figure out how much time you have to dedicate to the cause that is meaningful to you. (Marcus Buckingham has a great TED Talk about this topic.)
Second, we think of leadership as being in charge. But, every time you help someone — as a parent or a partner or a friend — you are being a leader. Sheryl Sandberg has said that in one of her best job interviews, the candidate asked her, “What’s your biggest problem, and how can I help you solve it?” Being an effective helper is a great way to become an effective leader.
What sort of message would you want your daughters to take away from your work?
Judaism emphasizes that the soul is separate from the body, and that the body is simply the vessel for our soul. Character matters most of all. I want them to feel loved and valued for who they are. I also want them to be givers. Givers are happy people.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the JWRP community?
I want to encourage JWRP sisters to reach out if they need support, or want to connect and share their experiences. I am part of the JWRP Board because I love the Jewish people, and I’m passionate about the JWRP’s work.