Karen Webber Gilat is a creative spirit who infuses her passion for diverse modes of expression into everything she does. Since singing at her mother’s brunches at the age of 10, Karen has joyfully used her talents as an artist, and has viewed the world through that lens. To achieve her many dreams as a young artist, Karen needed to study, develop and hone her craft.
And that is exactly what she did. At Trinity College, Karen majored in theatre/dance and English and was given an opportunity to create sung and spoken word theatre pieces, act, direct, orate and write reviews. In her hometown of Hartford, she also performed in dinner, community and regional theatre throughout New England. Karen continued to integrate forms in order to tell and share stories at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, NYC. HUC-JIR provided a wondrous incubator for creative ways to approach liturgy, text and ritual. Post ordination, Karen has served as a full-time, part-time, holy day, and interim cantor in residence for Jewish communities small, medium and large in every quadrant of the US and Canada.
As a freelance teacher, visual artist and cantor, Karen knew she already had a business. But she needed additional support to overcome several challenges, thus allowing her business to truly thrive. As a single mom raising two young adults with autism, Karen says, “I feel pulled in many directions….my need to provide for them as they age is at the forefront now. I am taking to heart the saying “put on your oxygen mask and then put on the masks of your children.” She knew she needed to address her business in a calculated and systematic way.
Karen was first introduced to EWI when she heard founder and Executive Director, Marga Fripp, speak at the TEDxWomen in Bethesda. “I was very moved but it wasn’t until a year later when I received an email describing the entrepreneur class that I paused. When I read you can nominate yourself…. well…that was all I needed.” Thanks to EWI, Karen says, “I will be able to shape the business in a supportive environment, structure and channel my creative ideas into a coherent business plan. I will collaborate with peers and learn with and from my mentors. I will study in a community of supportive spirits… Collective energy begets action, and camaraderie leads to community!”
Since arriving to the Washington DC Metro Area in 2011, Karen has joined the Montgomery Speakers Bureau, chaplaincy staff at JSSA (the Jewish social service agency) and a humbling list of rostered teaching artists with AFTA (Arts for the Aging). Karen’s work is diverse and highly creative. She currently serves as an interim cantor with Olney Kehilla and mentors students with special needs for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Her approach to mentorship is unique and highly dynamic. Karen aims to open up the Bat/Bar Mitzvah process to be as educational and family-oriented as possible. She also creates and present programs for an organization or calendar date, or conducts a wedding or funeral for families. Above all, Karen brings art to her clients as a teaching tool, making learning a personal, creative exercise.
Her advice to other women? “Dream big….and then dream BIGGER! For growth to occur we need to step out of our comfort zones.”
Karen submitted the following collage, along with her winning essay. It’s title is “On a Wing and a Prayer”