One of our new board members is a familiar face to many, both in the community and on the board. Gilda Neiman re-joins the IJC board after a ten year break. She has just retired from a 35-year career in banking with JP Morgan and Citigroup and says that ‘now is the time to think about the IJC again.’ Gilda has lived in Belgium for many years and joined the IJC in 2005.
Gilda had been searching for a Jewish home away from home ‘for ages’ and felt that she really found it with us. Although she married a non-Jew, her kids became excited about being Jewish, wanted to join the Hebrew School and even asked for a Bar and Bat Mitzvah! She was an involved parent and IJC’s Treasurer from 2007-2011, but then professional and personal priorities made her step back.
As Gilda reflects on this next chapter, she is concerned about sustainability, diversity and climate change and is hoping to leverage her management skills for Board and NGO work. Her reasons for re-joining our board are no different: ‘IJC is part of the diversity I believe in and I want to work on some of the governance and transparency issues which have recently surfaced. Change is good but it has to be carefully considered within IJC’s framework and with a view to what is right for the community. I want to see the IJC continuing to grow, promoting progressive Judaism in the capital of Europe. And I would like to see us gain state recognition.’
Gilda’s values and outlook are rooted in her personal background. She grew up in Cincinnati Ohio of Ukrainian and Polish descent. Her grandparents on both sides tried to emigrate to the US in the 1920s but were refused and ended up in Cuba - being told that if they settled for three years in a country neighboring the US, they could reapply. Both her parents were born in Cuba and grew up with Spanish as their first language. Her father made it to the US when he was 16, her mother joining him later, settling in Boston and then Ohio. Gilda grew up in a home where they spoke Spanish, Yiddish (from her grandparents who lived with the family) and English.
Feeling more international than American, Gilda studied International Affairs at Georgetown University and went to Vienna for a study abroad year. She met her future Belgian husband at a Goethe Institut in Germany before landing in Vienna. After moving to Belgium, Gilda obtained a graduate degree in Economics from the Université Catholique de Louvain.
In so many ways, Gilda’s story represents many IJC member stories. Her addition to the board will enrich us all.
Written by Diana Kanter