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Why being an Orthodox Jewish mom makes me a better CEO

Sarah Hofstetter writes, "When 360i, the ad agency I run, won Oscar Mayer’s business in 2010, I politely declined their invitation to sample products from their new portfolio. It’s not that I wasn’t interested—I had spent countless hours trying to win the hot dog maker’s business—but my faith simply prohibited it.

I’ve been keeping kosher and observing the Jewish Sabbath my entire life, along with striving to stick to the other 611 commandments of the Torah. This has meant resisting the temptations of McDonald’s as a child, fending off rebellious friends trying to get me to sneak out with them on Friday nights, and attempting to find the only kosher establishment in Tokyo (yes, it does exist, and yes, they have sushi, not bagels and lox).

At face value, perhaps someone like me shouldn’t be in the advertising business at all, let alone run one. And I’ve been told that many times. From friends. From my family. From others in the business. Yet 'vulnerabilities' like mine—whether it’s religion, motherhood, or experience—can actually be major assets.

Let’s start with faith and the Sabbath. Strict observance means, among other things, that I don’t conduct business or use anything electronic from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Outsiders see it as painfully restrictive; I see it as a lifesaver. Being unplugged for 25 hours every week is one of the ways I’ve managed to not burn out.

Sure, as a kid it kind of sucked. I was always jealous of the kids who got to spend Saturday morning watching cartoons, playing in Little League, or shopping. But as an adult, it’s the best part of my week: I get to play with my kids with no phones ringing and no urgent e-mails to answer. I hang out with my friends without distraction. And I take the time to pray and to give thanks for having a healthy family and a career I’m proud of."

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