Dana Myrtenbaum has made a career out of working toward gender equality in Israel. She will be in Pittsburgh next week to learn strategies and tactics to take back to the Jewish state.
Myrtenbaum, an Israeli public interest lawyer and social innovator, is the founder and director of the City for All Program at Itach-Ma’aki Women Lawyers for Social Justice where she promotes gender mainstreaming and gender equality action plans within local governments in Israel.
Since 2017, she has implemented City for All in Rishon LeZion, Taybe, Akko and Haifa. In each city, a multi-level process is underway toward creating and executing a gender equality action program.
“City for All,” explained Myrtenbaum, speaking by phone from Israel prior to her Pittsburgh visit, actually translates from Hebrew and Arabic more accurately as “city for women,” because of the gendered nuances in the languages.
“We enter into cities and we work with their administration and with groups of women leading women,” she said. “We work with the city in a big consultation and public participation process, and we crystalize a gender equality plan that suits the city in various areas. In each city it’s different.”
For the last two decades, Myrtenbaum has introduced programming to address the needs of marginalized citizens. She has helped to give voice to Jewish and Arab women leaders, advancing more inclusive policies for gender equality and the alleviation of poverty.
While in Pittsburgh, Myrtenbaum will be meeting with Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission, a two-year old initiative that has already accomplished a lot, she said, and which she admires.
Although while in the States she will also have meetings in New York and in Boston, Pittsburgh, she said, “will be the highlight of my visit because I really wanted to meet the Pittsburgh committee.”
“I want to learn from Pittsburgh,” she said. “I want to see the magic of this committee that did so much work since 2018. They have lots of data they collected, they meet every month, they have men on the board of the committee. They work with the full support of the city.”
While in Israel every city is required to have a mayor’s adviser on gender issues, “many times they are not nominated and when they are nominated it’s just like to check the box, because many of those advisors don’t get a salary,” Myrtenbaum explained. “Here it seems like something is working so I want to learn about the mechanism, and understand the small details of how they do it.”
Myrtenbaum will also be meeting with the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwestern Pennsylvania while in town, and will be addressing a group of interested women at a private event hosted by local Jewish historian Barbara Burstin as part of the ongoing effort of the Rayah Fund to bring bright Israeli female speakers to Pittsburgh.
“Dana Myrtenbaum is one of the dynamic women in Israel who is bringing about real change in Israeli civil society,” said Burstin. “She is an internationally recognized human rights lawyer and powerful advocate for gender equality. And she is part of our effort to strengthen the link between Israeli and American Jews, particularly between Israeli and American women.”
Myrtenbaum is particularly proud of her work in Akko, where she has helped to implement an action plan that includes improving employment and security, and factors in data analytics regarding gender policies in the city. The city initiated a municipal women’s council that has been operating for the last six months, and it also launched a committee for gender equality, “mapping all that happens in the issues of gender in the city,” she said.
“We think we are pioneering what’s going to be part of what each city will do by itself sooner or later,” she said. “It’s an interesting field because the local policies are affecting our lives as women,” more than are federal governmental policies.
“Local governance is very important to the lives of people — and the lives of women and children especially — and because it’s more day to day things, like how transportation affects our lives, how sports affects our lives, how the budgets are allocated to men, women, other genders, girls and boys. Welfare. So the fact of local governance is more immediate.”
She considers her visit to the U.S. as a “study trip,” hoping to be inspired by what she learns here, and taking that back to Israel.
“I think the challenges of governance and women and women’s issues and gender perspective, it’s something that is pretty universal,” she said. pjc
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at