2016 Recipient: Award of Inspiration
Of the many accolades given in support of Sensei Yudit Zicklin-Sidikman’s nomination or the Coleen Gragen Award of Inspiration, what stands out are her leadership by example, her bravery, and her persistence. She shares her own experiences and inspires others to listen to themselves, to live up to their own expectations, and to forgive themselves for having made choices they later considered mistakes. She energizes those with whom she works to push to their best capability, and she never forgets her mission of empowerment.
Yudit’s personal journey, which began in central New Jersey before leading her to Israel at the age of 20 in 1984, was a difficult one, at times paved with isolation, self-doubt, and a feeling of powerlessness. Yudit suffered sexual exploitation as a teen, was a victim of a sexual assault as a young woman and suffered from an emotionally abusive marriage, painful experiences which shaped her worldview in myriad ways.
In 1992 on a lark, Yudit enrolled in a neighborhood Judo group for women and, to her surprise, received her yellow belt a year later. She was so pregnant with her fifth child that she couldn’t tie the belt around her waist and instead proudly wore it as a necktie. This accomplishment threw open a door to unimaginable possibilities. With Judo, something visceral “clicked,” and Yudit began to rebound and reconnect to her body. This in turn led to a reclamation of soul and to an understanding of her innate value as a human being, realizing that she had at her disposal the power to stand up for herself all along. Since then, she has committed her life to reducing violence against girls and women, one person at a time, by helping them to tap into their own inner strengths.
At the age of 39 Yudit became a philanthropist and started investing in social change. she earned an MBA, which she acquired simultaneous to speaking publically on the Jewish community’s responsibility to protect its most vulnerable. Together with her friend, Jill Baker Shames, Yudit founded El HaLev (which translates as “To the Heart”) in 2003 to address a growing interest among women in Israel to learn martial arts and self-defense. She has voluntarily run the organization as CEO since 2010, and has taught empowerment self-defense and Judo courses from the very beginning.
She presently holds a yondon (4th degree black belt) in judo and is certified as an IMPACT self-defense instructor. There is nothing she loves to do more than teaching teachers.
Yudit has dedicated her life to violence prevention and empowerment of girls, women, and other populations that are vulnerable to abuse, including the elderly and those with special needs, helping them to tap into their innate strengths in their day-to-day lives in profound and transformative ways.