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Leaders to Watch in 2012: Kim Heiman

Like few cities of its size, Cincinnati develops leaders who not only push the local community forward, but also contribute their talents in leadership positions for national Jewish organizations. The “Leaders to Watch in 2012” series will regularly highlight the Cincinnati Jewish community’s many and diverse leaders.

Growing up in Nashville in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Kim Heiman’s life was different from those of her non-Jewish friends. She and her family were excluded from certain clubs and organizations, and she remembers her classmates occasionally throwing pennies at her and other Jewish students.

The feeling of “otherness” that her childhood left her with made her aware of how easily preconceptions, judgments and stereotypes can be formed. And it taught her to believe in the power of being open to people, regardless of their ethnicity, race or native tongue.

Heiman explains, “When we learn to see each person as an individual with his or her own history and story and welcome them into our lives, we are often surprised by what can be accomplished, and how, one by one, these connections can serve to mend our world’s angry scars of hatred and intolerance.”

Heiman strives, in both her philanthropic and professional work, to demonstrate that view with her words and actions. As managing director of Standard Textile Company, a Cincinnati company that supplies textile products and services to hospitality and healthcare markets worldwide, she is responsible for the company’s international business development. On her watch, the company has opened factories in Israel and Jordan, fostering economic ties between the countries.

“Our Israeli manufacturing plant reveals a diverse mix of secular and religious Jews, Bedouin, Druze and immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia and North Africa” says Heiman. “In Irbid, Jordan, 700 Palestinian women work side-by-side with Jews and Sri Lankans. It is quite an amazing sight to watch Muslim-Arab women, dressed in traditional headscarves, sharing work tables with tanned, sandal-clad Sri Lankans and solving important technical challenges with their Jewish-Israeli co-workers.”

Heiman’s goal of creating connections among different groups is evident in her volunteer work as well. The organizations she supports have focuses ranging from local to national to global. She is a former president of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and has also held leadership positions with Hebrew Union College; Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Center in Jerusalem; and the American Jewish Committee. Heiman and her husband, Gary, run a family foundation, which donated funds to create the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Judaic Studies.

“It’s genetic,” says Heiman of her commitment to philanthropy and community service. “My mother and grandmother were incredible volunteers and leaders. I come from a long line of strong, involved, community-minded Jewish women.”

Her devotion to combating stereotypes and judgments throughout her life has brought attention to Heiman and her work. This year, she was selected by Jewish Women International (JWI) as a 2011 Woman to Watch. Each year, JWI selects 10 women whose professional gains have changed the face of their disciplines and whose achievements and values exemplify successful leadership.

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