Every so often in life, if one is fortunate enough, comes along an opportunity that feels like winning the lottery. It’s an experience that’s both monumental and nearly missed–as if an arrow was shot from long range and landed exactly in the middle of the target that is you. It is the path you nearly accidentally missed when there were so many other paths you could have taken. And in the end, if feels like destiny.
I have felt a sense of this good fortune, of God’s whisper that guided me but so easily could have been ignored, twice in my life. The first time was in 1999 when I listened to the whispers that encouraged me to learn and re-evaluate my entire outlook in life and become a Torah observant Jew. The second time led me to the marriage of my soulmate when I didn’t even realize I should be searching for him.
My past week in Israel with 400 powerful and empowered women on JWRP was the third time. As one of five leaders for 40 incredible Chicago women, I had the tremendous privilege to help facilitate a week of learning, introspection and growth for all of us. And just like a parent or teacher gains more from the experience than the recipient, so too did I gain layers of inspiration and wisdom.
Traveling through Tiveria, Tzfat, Tel Aviv, Masada and Jerusalem with our group of mothers from all around North America and Israel meant that we all left the comfort zones of our hometowns and families and were more easily able to open our hearts and minds. Together, we experienced a journey of Jewish history, tradition and culture unlike any other. For those who had lived in Israel and for those who were visiting for the first time, the week was uniquely unlike any trip we had ever experienced. Outstanding guides and educators meant that I looked at Israel sites I have visited even dozens of times with fresh eyes. And the phenomenal daily classes on Jewish wisdom meant that more than anything, we learned about ourselves. To do all of this as mothers, who return to our families more inspired and empowered, means that one week in Israel has the potential to change families, communities and then the world.
For me, much of what we learned and saw was familiar, but hearing Torah presented by the unparalleled educator, Adrienne Gold, meant that every lesson felt shiny and renewed. Hearing her lectures on women, Judaism and mothering reminded me of all the reasons I chose this path in life and gave me perspective on what really matters. And having to continue the conversation–sometimes 19 hours a day–with thoughtful, bright women who looked to me for answers, meant that I was able to reignite those ideas for myself.
Amidst the politics and troubles of today, it’s easy for our world to feel hopeless. But this week, as one of 400 empowered women among the 15,000 other mothers who have joined JWRP, I have no doubt that our future is bright indeed. Because it starts with women.