There's Something About Esther

A spate of new books shows what Jews, Christians, and even secular business people can learn from the biblical heroine.

"What actress wouldn't kill for the role of Esther?" New York mayor Michael Bloomberg reportedly asked a crowd at a Jewish Museum gala this week. He was joking about the possibility of making a Purim movie as a follow-up to Mel Gibson's "Passion." But there was truth in the joke--Esther is one of the most celebrated women in Jewish lore, renowned for her beauty, charm, and perseverance.

Fortunately for Esther wannabes of all ages, being like Esther is no longer limited to the ranks of Hebrew [or Jewish] elementary school girls who don gowns and tiaras in her honor every Purim. A spate of new books about the beloved queen who charmed a king and saved the Jewish people from destruction in ancient Persia help bring the Esther story to adult turf.

These books vary in the type of advice they give as much as they range in genre; included are a novel, a collection of business tips, and a Christian self-help book. In the business genre, "

What Queen Esther Knew

" (Rodale, 2003) by Connie Glaser and Barbara Smalley, offers career guidance for women, based on the principles they believe Esther used to win King Ahashverosh's heart and turn him against his evil adviser, Haman. Glaser and Smalley suggest contemporary women take cues from Esther's confidence, assertiveness, ability to seize opportunities, and willingness to take risks, to help them get ahead in the workplace.

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The authors demonstrate the importance of finding a good mentor on the job, just as Esther found Hegai, the leader of the Persian king's harem, to assist her in being chosen as queen. They compare keeping tabs on office gossip to Esther's overhearing Bigthan and Teresh's plot to assassinate the king. In the Purim story, Esther was able to use her knowledge of Bigthan and Teresh's plan to win favor in the eyes of the king for her and her cousin Mordechai. Being similarly aware of hush-hush news of impending company layoffs or other shakeups, Glaser and Smalley suggest, can lead women to make better career decisions for themselves and act appropriately in their own jobs.

In each chapter, the authors dispense Q&A-style "Royal Advice" for women dealing with career struggles like being denied a promotion, having trouble communicating with superiors, and handling bad bosses. While the real Esther would never have been able to balance accounting sheets or make a PowerPoint presentation, Glaser and Smalley's book successfully uses her story as a model for female empowerment in the workplace.

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