PROPEL: Spotlight on Sarina Roffé

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Her Journey and the Importance of Education and Skills

Bonnie Azoulay

Sarina Roffé has 20 years of management consulting experience in nonprofit and small business management as well as in public service. As a mother of three, two of whom have disabilities (one deaf and one learning disabled, both with ADHD), Sarina was working as an educational interpreter for the deaf when she returned to school in her thirties. She graduated with a BA in Journalism from the University of Maryland twenty years after finishing high school. In her fifties, she earned an MA in Jewish Studies from Touro College and in her sixties, she received her MBA for nonprofit management. Sarina became an award-winning journalist before working in government relations for Jewish nonprofits like the Jewish National Fund and ORT America. Meanwhile, she served on the board of directors for the National Cued Speech Association and became its president for six years.

Sarina also wrote two Sephardic cookbooks and a few Sephardic Genealogy books including Backyard Kitchen: Mediterranean, Backyard Kitchen: The Main Course, and Branching Out from Sepharad, a history of our community and Rabbi Kassin’s lifetime as our chief rabbi. Currently, Sarina is a nonprofit management consultant, a Sephardic genealogist and historian, and the president of her nonprofit called The Sephardic Heritage Project.

A New Venture

After a long and successful career, Sarina started her own consulting business. “I started to help Rabbi Sammy Kassin of Shehebar Sephardic Center as executive director,” explained Sarina. “I watched as all the rabbis came from Israel to fundraise. I thought to myself – I can help them. I could make them more professional, help them understand how to fundraise and operate a reputable nonprofit. That was the genesis for Sarina Roffé Consulting Group. I got a few referrals and a decade later we have 15-20 nonprofit clients that we manage.”

“About five years ago, my son Abie was seeking an MBA and as we looked at programs, I found one for myself. We studied for our MBAs together but at different schools. I felt I needed the MBA to stay relevant and up to date in nonprofit management.”

The Importance of Education and Skills

“When I was growing up and attending public school, higher education was not valued, at least not by my family, and especially not for women. There was a lot of opposition to me going to school for my BA from everyone – my husband, my in-laws, and my parents. My husband’s business had just gone under, it was not a good time. But I had to leave educational interpreting, a job I had gotten to be near my deaf son. I knew in my heart I had to go to school. It was a critically important decision that literally changed our lives forever. I always felt the need for financial stability in our home. We were a two-income household and that was always a priority for me.”

“Education alone is not enough. You also need skills – organization, socialization, and the ability to network. Team building and project work are essential to today’s work environment. It is critical that we get along with others and respect diverse opinions.”

Inspiring Her Family

“I believe that my own determination in getting that first BA demonstrated an important lesson for my children. They saw me drive one hour each way to the University of Maryland, come home and manage their lives – school, homework, dinner, and after school activities. They saw me sitting at the dining room table every night studying and writing papers for school. They saw my determination, that I set a goal and followed it through to the end, no matter how hard it was. (Btw, during this time, my husband got a job in NY, so I was alone.) My children saw me graduate and it inspired them. I believe this was an important lesson for them and that it set an example.”

“I should mention that during all my work and all of my career moves, I never bought take out dinners, except for the occasional pizza on Sunday night. My family had a hot home-cooked meal every night. My house was always clean. I always tried to balance work and homelife. My kids did every activity – baseball, soccer, swimming, and more.” ____________________________________________________________________

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