Bianna Golodryga was only 18 months when she left Moldova in the Soviet Union to settle in Galveston, Texas. Mom mopped floors and dad cleaned garages so she could go to school. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, and today is an ABC News business correspondent and the weekend co-anchor of Good Morning America.
“My parents encountered anti-Semitism in Moldova and even in Texas, where they made fun of their accent,” Golodryga said. She was one of three honorees at the 10th annual Jewish Women’s Foundation luncheon emceed by broadcaster Paula Zahn the other week at the Plaza Hotel.
President Madeleine R. Grant announced that this year JWF will hand out $500,000 in grants to provide economic security for women in New York and Israel.
For career women, Golodryga said, having strong men as supporters helps. She credits her husband for “pushing me farther than anyone else.” Her husband, Peter Orszag, of Hungarian Jewish descent, was President Obama’s first budget director. Now he’s vice chairman of global banking at Citigroup. The couple welcomed baby Jake Spencer three weeks before the luncheon.
The second honoree, Alexis Azria, is from West Virginia, which she noted is one of the poorest states in the country. Her mother protected her from “an abusive and cruel” father.
She went to France for her education. She recounted how she was attacked in a dance hall. An Algerian man held a knife to her neck and called her “a dirty American whore.” He tried to drag her across the floor when another Algerian came to her rescue.
“He told me to run like hell, which I did. He sustained knife wounds and landed in the hospital for two nights.”
“Women need to be strengthened and take leadership roles,” she said. “They need encouragement and mentorship. The girlfriend network is always there for you.”
Azria, who lives in Manhattan with her husband, Rene-Pierre Azria, founder of Tegris, a financial advisory firm, is involved in many philanthropic endeavors. She’s a board member of Our Soldiers Speak, an organization that brings Israeli combat soldiers to high schools and college campuses to relate their personal stories in safeguarding the Jewish state.
The third honoree was Carolee Friedlander, who sold her Carolee Designs, a world leading accessories brand, to create AccessCircles, a social network that enables women to share their knowledge and influence.
“Give women the ability to manage their financial lives,” she said, “and with those skills they will change the world — as they always have.”