Meet Mara Langer

Women's Philanthropy Spotlight

This post is part of a series highlighting women who are doing great work in our local Jewish community.

Mara Langer:

Mara Langer

I began my journey in the Jewish community in my late 20s. Growing up unaffiliated, I realized I missed a sense of community. Returning to the Bay Area after college, I started my involvement by joining the social action group of YAD (Young Adult Division) at the Federation, and there I met many wonderful young adults who shared the same values and ethics. I began to feel more comfortable as I learned more and more of what it meant to be a member of the Jewish community. I went on to become an adult bat mitzvah, traveled to Israel on a UJC Mission, and returned the following year to live and work in Israel for a year. This year was transformative for me, as I became more observant in my Jewish practice and more committed to my involvement in the Jewish community.

Through my work with the Federation, I was fortunate to learn from amazing role models, leaders and transformers, who led by example and walked the talk. It is my goal to do the same.

My motivation to be involved in our Jewish community started out as a personal journey, one where I was searching for the right place to fit in; but it has changed into a journey of giving and one in which I want to make this world a better place for my children and the generations to follow. I met my husband in 1999 on a blind date, and we were married in 2002. We were blessed with the birth of our daughter in 2004. Nine months later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, while pregnant with our son, I was diagnosed again. Both times I was able to focus on rest and recovery while our community took care of me and our family. It was an amazing experience and one I continue to re-pay by paying it forward.

Because of my breast cancer journey, I am often asked to speak with other young women in our community who have been recently diagnosed. While I share with them that it is not a sisterhood I would invite anyone to join voluntarily, it is an amazing group of women who all have their own journey, story and outcomes. If my experience and knowledge can help just one other person’s experience be less scary as they navigate through their breast cancer diagnosis, then mine was not worthless.

While trying to figure out how to juggle motherhood with career and re-enter the workforce, I thought it would be great to create a program where we bring together local women to meet other women looking for the same successes. I introduced the idea to staff at the Federation and they loved it. We asked two amazing women to chair the event, and the three-part series of “Jewish Women Making It Work” was born. The event brought out community members from all over the Peninsula and led to many successful matches and lasting friendships.

The gift of community service is as much a gift to me as it is to those I touch by volunteering. It warms my heart each time I am able to help another person in need. Today, my volunteer time is spent in the North Peninsula community. I am the PTO co-president for our Jewish day school and sit on the board as part of this role. I believe my co-president and I have made wonderful additions to the school experience not only for the students, but for the parents, teachers, and administration as well. I also sit on several PJCC committees, from the Wellness Initiative to the new Strategic Plan.

My motto in life is, if you are given lemons – make pink lemonade. I try to look at each situation with the cup half full, finding out the meaning of the challenge and turning it into an opportunity. Not all challenges can be overcome easily or quickly; however, focusing on the role model I want to be for my children keeps me going. I want them to be proud to be members of our Jewish community, stepping up when there is an opportunity to help others, and working with each other to meet their goals.


April 14, 2016


Robyn Carmel