Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

What’s a Woman Doing Here?

Five women — a skipper, a mathematics professor, a biomedical researcher, a house painter, and a mortgage broker — on being frum and female in male-dominated professions

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

 Mishpacha image

NOT HELD BACK The only time Avital felt held back as a woman was when she had to remain on maternity bed rest, on doctor’s orders.


here have always been “female” professions: teaching, nursing, every type of therapy. But some women find their niche elsewhere. Five women — a boat skipper, a mathematics professor, a biomedical researcher, a house painter, and a mortgage broker — speak about being frum and female in a male-dominated profession, and how they navigated the challenges with grace and feminine wisdom. 

Profile One (below) │ Profile Two Profile ThreeProfile Four Profile Five


Name: Avital Gold │Profession: Licensed Boat Skipper / Accountant │Location: Any harbor on the map 

What’s the connection between a humdrum accountant’s office and the vastness of the Mediterranean? Ask Avital Gold, and she’ll laugh. There is no comparison. But after discovering the joys of riding the waves, this experienced accountant is not about to stop her part-time job as a self-employed licensed boat skipper. “I find accounting pressurizing, so I’m trying to carve a new career out of my hobby,” says Avital. Avital Gold has run her private accounting firm for over two decades — a pretty solid career curve to suddenly veer sideways. “Yes,” she affirms with another laugh. “Call it a midlife crisis!”

Setting Sail

It began with an unexpected call. “A boating school in Hertzliya asked if I’d be interested in sailing,” Avital recalls. “I have no idea how they reached me! The first lessons were free.” Their offer came on the heels of a long, hard maternity leave, spent mostly on bed rest, and Avital jumped at the chance to breathe fresh sea air. She took the trial lessons and was hooked tighter than a fish on bait.

“Gazing at the horizon from behind the wheel, seeing sunrays break through the clouds… I close my eyes and allow the breeze to engulf me. I love it!” There’s something uplifting about being one with the ocean.

“I was at a shiur recently,” says Avital, “and the speaker mentioned hisbodedus. That concept resonated with me. You feel so close to Hashem out there.” There’s an emotional component, too. “The sound of the waves is extremely relaxing.”

As a skipper, Avital is responsible for sailing her vessel and often invites passengers, under her close supervision, to actively participate. Still, not everyone can spin a ship’s wheel. By law, one must have a license. Basic training took ten months, and Avital has been attending additional licensing courses ever since. These qualify her to work anywhere in the world.

“The responsibility is huge,” Avital explains. “Something as elementary as weather is never in one’s control, no matter how dedicated one is to the job. Wind conditions can let people down, which is greatly frustrating,” says Avital. She’s super conscious about safety, having studied first aid and firefighting in her training. “Anyone who can’t swim must wear a life vest. I encourage everyone else to do the same.” 

“I couldn’t go out to sea for quite a few months — I found that highly frustrating. I missed the ocean!”

To date, Avital has taken friends and family sailing, and has ventured out with various groups who heard of her through word of mouth. The possibility of working full time at sea is still some way down the coast, though a number of plans are in the pipeline. A women’s-only sailing course. A water-focused summer camp. “Also, I am looking into developing therapeutic sailing for kids. It is highly effective,” Avital says.

Avital speaks from experience. There’s no one she enjoys riding the waves with more than her own family. “My kids constantly ask me when we’re sailing again.”

Related Stories

True Colors

Shalvi Waldman

“I liked doing a job that had a clear beginning, middle, and end, and the end was clearly a vast imp...

Of Mortgages & Mommying

Shalvi Waldman

“When the children were young, we had a very tight schedule of tag-team parenting. Over the years we...

Patience Unwired

Atira Rappaport

I’ve lost patience because I’ve allowed the Internet to become a central feature in my life. There, ...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

When Tragedy Strikes
Shoshana Friedman What are we giving and what are we getting?
One Nation, Divisible
Yonoson Rosenblum Israel isn’t yet suffocated by political correctness
What Am I, Chopped Liver?
Eytan Kobre Far more disturbing is the title’s unspoken implication
Not Just Politics
Yisroel Besser We’re fighting over something that means the world to us
Are We There Yet?
Alexandra Fleksher Seeing other models of avodas Hashem enriches our own
Top 5 Yeshivish Business Ventures
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Different answers to “So, what is it you do?”
Work/Life Solutions with Mois Navon
Moe Mernick “When you set a goal, it’s going to take lots of effort”
Were They Orthodox Jews?
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman This is why I asked, “What difference does it make?”
You Get What You Pay For
Jacob L. Freedman “Get me a real doctor from Harvard who speaks Persian!”
Tunes That Take Me Back, with Levy Falkowitz
Riki Goldstein “It’s amazing how strong music memories are”
All Rivers Wind Up in the Sea
Riki Goldstein Your heartbeat will slow down listening to the new album
Faigy Peritzman A name symbolizes the essence inherent within
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Inject positivity into your marriage to counter burnout
The Game of Life
Rebbetzin Suri Gibber Use your competitive spirit to score high in life
The Musician Part II
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer “It’s an integrative therapy approach. Not boot camp”