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Women IN Philanthropy – Spotlight Questions: Robyn Gutman

Tell us about yourself

My name is Robyn Joseph Gutman and some of you already know me as a Pediatrician with Phoenix Pediatrics or from my Instagram and TikTok @kiddoc3. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and went to Smith College and was lucky enough to do a portion of my education at the University of Florence in Italy. After college, and to the horror of my parents, I put off medical school and moved to Chicago without a job. For a year I managed the Banana Republic in the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue and had a blast. To my parents’ relief, I returned to Cleveland and attended Medical School at Case Western Reserve University where I met my husband of 22 years, Michael Gutman. He was my anatomy partner and that fact still makes my kids cringe. We stayed in Cleveland for both our residencies, but his job search pulled us west when he joined North Valley ENT. We have three girls, Sophia who is twenty and is starting her junior year at the University of Arizona, Talia who is seventeen and will be a senior at Scottsdale Prep, and Aliya who is fourteen and will be a freshman at Scottsdale Prep. Of everything I have done and accomplished in my life so far, these three girls bring me the most pride and joy. I am the happiest when the five of us are all together.

What is the Jewish Tradition you love?

My family were the first Jews in Cleveland and are very proud to have established an incredibly strong community there. We belonged to a Reform synagogue and, although I attended services on High Holy Days and went to Hebrew school, there was not much Judaism in my daily life. I knew when starting my own family that I wanted Judaism to be ever present and fun. I started simple and began with Shabbat which is my favorite weekly holiday. It has become a well needed reset button in our crazy busy lives. I sometimes feel we are bouncing balls ricocheting in every direction, but Shabbat has a gravitational pull that sucks us all back together. My entire family loves Shabbat and if my children are not home they call in for the prayers and their weekly blessing. Growing up I did not see the fun in being Jewish, only the responsibility and, yet it really is the most fun and interesting religion. I want Judaism to be an active choice that my children make and not a responsibility they feel was dumped upon them.

What is something we would want to know about you?

Secret fact, which I guess is no longer secret, I had to convert to Judaism twelve years ago. I was born a Jew and raised a Jew, but when I began to discuss my eldest’s Bat Mitzvah with our Rabbi, a family adoption story came to light. It is a crazy interesting adoption story, which I will not tell here, but to my horror it brought my Judaism into question. Admittedly I was angry and a bit bitter at the way my own religion viewed my predicament and forced me down the path of a yearlong conversion. I was embarrassed and did not tell my husband, but did share with a close friend, Rachel Hoffer, who helped me through. I was six months into secret weekly study sessions with the Rabbi when he dropped a bomb, “Ummm, Robyn you have to get remarried.” Are you kidding me, I have not even told my husband! That was a memorable conversation. So, on a weekday night, I put on a hot pink dress, met the Hoffers in the Rabbi’s office and got hitched, AGAIN. Then went out for dinner and drinks, a lot of them. I did have to tell my kids because the entire adventure included a family trip to the Mikvah. I resented the journey, but in the end it was amazing and an adventure I cherish. It was the most educational experience of my adult life learning about something that I love, Judaism. Our religion has so much to give, to teach, and to share and cherish. I am now proud to say I was born a Jew and chose to be a Jew.

How did you get involved with Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix?

I can blame one person for my involvement, Rachel Hoffer. I tagged along as her plus one and was not very interested at first as I’m not the most social of people. Large gatherings of women socializing gives me hives, but she dragged me along and encouraged me to dig deeper into both the women and the cause. My preconceived “ladies who lunch” stereotypes began to crumble and I was introduced to smart, motivated, dynamic Jewish women joined together working on creating a powerful and meaningful Federation in Phoenix.

If you could have a meal with someone influential (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

Of course I would give almost anything to spend time with my dear father or other relatives that have died, but I’ll save those meetings for my dreams. Instead I’ll focus on the amazing women that litter history with their unbelievable contributions. Some you may know and others maybe not so much, Golda Meir, Marie Curie, Harriet Tubman, RBG, Sybil Ludington, Maya Angelou, to name just a few. If I have to pick one I choose a historical figure with whom I have been obsessed since grammar school and I think I even wrote a college essay about her. The true year of her birth is unknown but Anne Boleyn was probably around seventeen when she caught the eye of her future husband and murderer. Abiding the orders of Henry VIII, all portraits, writings and history about her was destroyed after her beheading. Few known facts are left and what we do know is speculation and stories passed through time. Much of history treats her as a cunning seductress with a spoiled child like temper, but she was truly a remarkable woman in her short tragic life. Typical of women at the time, she was born and bred as a familial pawn whose only use was to marry nobility to further the wealth of her family. She was shipped away to the Netherlands and then to France around the tender age of twelve for her “education.” Female nobility were taught etiquette, language, music, needlework, and unfortunately, a “sexual education.” She was reportedly a wickedly smart child with a witty sense of humor far superior to the other men and women at court. Female intelligence had no value and was feared by those around her and marked a target on her back. Anne was certainly smarter and more cunning than the men at court, and the King grew to understand that included him as well. To make matters worse, every single female that she met, including her sister who had an affair with Henry VIII, was not only her competition, but her absolute deadliest enemy. She was doomed the moment the King laid eyes on her and every female in her presence waited for this young teenager to make a mistake so they could help bring her down, and they did. Amazingly, Anne outsmarted them all and left behind an impressive legacy. She created one of the most influential female leaders in history, Queen Elizabeth I. I often ponder what would have happened if Anne Boleyn had any reliable female support around her. I think Henry VIII would have been killed and she would have sat on that throne.

Why is it that a busy woman always gets it done? What is your secret?

My secret is that I NEVER get everything done, at least not all by myself. Like all of you I am busy, overbooked, and overwhelmed. I’ve shown up at work wearing two different shoes, I’ve gone out in public having put makeup on only half my face, and once I forgot a daughter at home on the toilet, while running early morning carpool. You don’t have to have a career or even be a mom to feel bogged down by your life. We are all drowning in daily responsibilities and have feelings of inadequacy. I am able to succeed and get mostly all the things I need done by relying on the help of others. I am where I am today, both in my professional life and personal life, because of the help of the many women who have plowed the way before me. There is no secret and I will not make others feel badly by pretending that there is. Instead I will say to all of you, ask for help and be helpful and kind to the women in your lives. I may not reach every goal in my life, but if I can help you reach yours even if that means putting some of mine aside, I will do it, gladly.

Why are you IN with Women IN Philanthropy?

Because you can’t stay OUT anymore. Phoenix deserves to have a strong Jewish community. We are the fifth largest city in the US, but our Jewish community involvement is nowhere near Detroit’s or Cleveland’s. If we can’t pull ourselves together we can’t be effective in our community, and our community needs us. My children are drowning in antisemitism. Swastikas, Holocaust jokes, and anti-Israel rhetoric is part of their daily school lives. My daughter can’t wear a t-shirt with Hebrew on it outside of our home without an adult present. It is time for Jews to step up and be vocal and support each other. Women IN Philanthropy is so much more than donating money and volunteering for different organizations. It’s about Jewish women meeting one another, banding together, and getting out in the community to create a strong Jewish presence and a strong Jewish community in Phoenix. Our voices need to be heard and we are stronger and louder together. It’s about paving the way for the next generation of Jewish female leaders.

If you like what you hear let’s be friends. Come join me at Federation or ask Sheryl or Leah for my number and we can have lunch or drinks or coffee or mostly drinks🤗

Let’s make this community stronger, together.