Women Leaders: A Tribute to My Mom

Nov 11, 2020

Kamala Harris, Madam Vice President-Elect, made history as the first woman to be elected to the White House. There have been 48 Vice Presidents previously, all white men. 

This opens the door for women female leaders of all races and religions. I am grateful that my mom, who turns 96 years old in a couple of weeks, was alive to witness this historical moment.

Me and Mom. Don’t you just love that smile?

Not knowing how many Thanksgivings or birthdays are left for Mom to enjoy and remember, I dedicate this blog post to my mom, Thelma Kurzweil, who has been a driving force in my life. We have always had a special and unique bond because she was 45 when she had me, a bit late in life overall, and really late for back in those days when most women had their babies between the ages of 18 and 25.

Mom is a true pioneer among her generation. She ran her own commercial and residential real estate company from the 1950s through the 1990s at a time when many women were Suzy Homemakers.

She also invested in commercial real estate as another revenue stream. She was so proud that the first Subway franchise in New Jersey opened in the building she owned in Teaneck, New Jersey and was thrilled that the income from that building funded my college education.

My mom showed me that women can have it all – career and family. The secret was the dynamic balance between the two.

Through her example, I learned a steadfast determination to never give up. My mother always told me that “I could do anything that I set my mind to” and that “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

She encouraged me to go after what I wanted and work hard. It was that mindset and through her example that led me to form Amendola Communications 18 years ago. From my mom (and Dad) I gained an entrepreneurial spirit that I am so grateful for.

I  have been told that my agency’s success is due to my core values: hard work, authenticity, and a passion for changing the world around me, one client at a time. Like my mom, I am a tireless networker and while many agencies have struggled, especially during the pandemic, Amendola continues to see a constant stream of new clients coming on-board.

One of the most valuable lessons my mom taught me was to lead with care and compassion. I am not the typical hard-charging, “take no prisoners” type of executive who is focused solely on the success of the business.

Like my mom, I am genuine, and I care about my team and my clients. I am interested in their lives and their well-being, and I approach both more as a friend than a business associate.  That’s how my mom approached her relationships, and it is something I inherited.

She encouraged me to surround myself with good people, who radiate positive energy and have positive outlooks as life is too short for negativity.  My mom has never been easily impressed with money or power. What sets her apart is her kindness and generosity.

She has always been “a giver” – actually to a fault. Though a fierce card player and now bingo player, she never kept score with friends or business associates. She encouraged me to give from the heart, not because someone gave me something.

Mom has always stressed the importance of finding time to enjoy life –- to take time to smell the roses, “slow down” and appreciate what you have, rather than regret what you don’t.  I try my best, but I am not as good as she is.

Not being able to see Mom during the first phase of the pandemic because her assisted living facility was on lock down was extremely difficult. Fortunately, I was able to visit her with “window visits.”

The social isolation had a negative impact on Mom for sure, but she is a survivor, and her positive attitude has helped her find a reason to continue to fight each day.  After all, she lived through World War II, a depression, and many other hard knocks of life.

Mom encouraged me to never remain stagnant, to always challenge myself and to look for new opportunities. She explained that life is what you make of it and drilled into me that we all control our own destiny. “You never know what you can achieve until you try, as there are no real limits.”

Growing up my mom told me that anything is possible if you work hard and set your mind to it and that is the motto I have passed on to my daughter.

Mom has not only had an impact on my life, but also, on my daughter’s, who is a sophomore at Berkeley. Growing up, Jackie spent a lot of time with her grandma and they share a special connection. My mom continues to be an inspiration to me and to the next generation of entrepreneurs — my daughter.

Today I marvel at Mom’s zest for life. Not even a global pandemic can break her spirit.

She plays BINGO every day and brags about her daily winnings. She tells her caregivers and peers about her family and the numerous life lessons. And believe you me, she has vivid stories and anecdotes and many words of wisdom.

Mom is a very gifted storyteller, although she may embellish a bit. Dr. Mike calls Mom “his favorite patient” and looks forward to her weekly life lessons.

Nurse Theresa says, “What impresses me the most about Thelma is that she always is kind. Her mood never changes, regardless if I wake her out of a deep sleep or if she is in pain.”

Yes, she is a little repetitive, but she makes everyone she comes in contact with smile. In addition to her words of wisdom, she injects humor in all that she does.

To survive in good times and in hard times, I also draw upon making people smile/laugh every day as I hear Mom’s powerful words, “You have to laugh at least 3 times a day.”

As we embark on a new era with Kamala Harris, Vice President-Elect, I look forward to seeing future generations of women realize the endless possibilities. In other words a day when a woman being elected Vice President, or even President, is normal rather than noteworthy. Mom, thank you for being my guiding light and my inspiration.

Jodi Amendola

Jodi is an accomplished leader with 25 years of experience developing, implementing and executing high-impact, integrated business-to-business public relations and marketing campaigns. Since 2004, she has served as CEO and co-founder of Amendola, where she has led campaigns for countless industry giants and start-up companies.