Dr. Ricky Shay is an Israeli JWRP sister who has already lived a few lives — each one with passion, leadership and drive. With advanced degrees in education, education management, and behavioral science, Ricky is a teacher turned professor, who now lectures about education and children’s development. An activist and doer, Ricky served as a member of the Ashkelon City Council, launching important initiatives for her city’s children, women, and businesses. Now, Ricky, the mother of four grown children, is running for mayor. In our conversation, Ricky shared her impetus for creating a Women’s Center in Ashkelon, as well as her motivation in running for mayor.
What inspired you to experience MOMentum with the JWRP?
I had just gotten divorced after 30 years, and I wanted to take part in a movement that believes in the power of women. I was also ready to take a break from my busy life. I wanted to explore Israel with mothers from all over the world, and to show them the reality of our lives. I was born and raised in Ashkelon, served in the Israeli Army and sent my children to fight in the Israeli Army. We live right next to Gaza, and our daily lives are filled with tension. I wanted to show my JWRP sisters the price that we pay for defending our land and to let them know that in this conflict, both sides suffer.
How did MOMentum impact you?
MOMentum showed me that we are not alone. My JWRP sisters were full of love, joy, and the desire to give. I realized that when women get together, we can solve problems and do incredible things. Together, we connected to Jewish values and developed powerful friendships that made all of us feel very hopeful about the future.
What are some of the initiatives that you’ve launched for the city of Ashkelon?
As a member of Ashkelon’s City Council, I focused many of my efforts on education and women’s empowerment. I created the Women’s Center in memory of my mother, Bat Sheva, fulfilling her lifelong dream. In India, where she was born, there are many such centers, where women can come together and share their knowledge and tools. At the Women’s Center in Ashkelon, we discuss financial planning, enjoy yoga and meditation, and inspire one another to turn our dreams into realities.
As a Council Member, I developed a city partnership with Vadodara, India. Each year, Indian doctors spend time in our local hospital, and Indian students study agriculture at Ashkelon College and work at nearby kibbutzim. I also helped develop a lot of initiatives for our children — including after-school activities that focus on helping children build on their strengths, subsidized after-school care, and leadership classes in several of our public schools.
What inspired you to run for mayor of Ashkelon?
After serving as a member of the Ashkelon City Council following many years of political and community involvement, I believe that I can make a difference for the people of Ashkelon. The city has suffered a lot in recent years and is now crying for stability and momentum. I have the skills, education, faith, experience, and vision to make Ashkelon a city that is safe, prioritizes education, and offers excellent job opportunities. Ashkelon has a great deal of potential and I want to help turn it into a city where my children and grandchildren will want to live.
As a woman in politics, I’ve overcome a lot of barriers. Women need to work harder and invest more time and resources than men in order to be taken seriously. If we want our perspectives, needs, and interests to be taken into account, we need to be represented in politics. As women, we experience the world differently than men, and women’s voices need to be heard in order to promote issues that are vital to a strong and healthy society.