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
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
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.
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.