Special Moments from Israel
By Shari Goldsmith, Participant from Plainview, NY
I am a breast cancer survivor on a mission; I started my own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization seven years ago during my treatment. The purchase of a brightly colored pair of sneakers changed my attitude. That attitude soon became the name of my nonprofit organization, The WTFC. We donate 100% of the proceeds to breast cancer researchers all over the country. We also raise awareness about the importance of breast cancer screening as well as BRCA gene testing. Thus far, we have made contributions in excess of $65,000. Team The WTFC has supported the NYC Susan G Komen “Race for the Cure” for the past 6 years and has raised over $141,000 for the cause!
I try to live each day as if there is no tomorrow. Slowly but surely I am checking off my bucket list and adding to it! Last year, the JWRP gave me the amazing opportunity to fulfill one of the top priorities on my list, a trip of a lifetime to visit Israel! And what a trip it was!!
Dinner and dancing at Decks with 200 women from all over the world — I survived, I lived to see this day, I was in the promised land, I was in Israel.
We walked the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem making our way to the Aish center for the first of many visits. Arriving in the lobby, I glanced at the window in the back, I stepped over to it and my breath was taken away. The Wailing Wall, the most sacred site, right before my eyes. I wrote and rolled up my prayers one after another, hoping I didn’t forget anyone. This was something I had thought about and hoped to have the opportunity to do for so long. As we made our way down to the Kotel, I was filling up with emotion. After 52 years of pictures and stories, there I was, with tears rolling down my face; I was home.
I was so excited to visit Masada. We arrived, went into the cinema area, started watching the film, then suddenly I felt ill and ran off to the ladies room. This was not a good time for an upset stomach. I wasn’t sure whether to continue on the line and take the cable car up, or just stay back. But here I was, at Israel, at Masada, so I got in the car. When we reached the top of this archeological treasure, I was nauseous, crampy and in awe!
We toured the Fortress, listening to the amazing story as we walked. I gazed up at the wall of a cistern and there it was, “Jared,” which was the name of my 20-year-old nephew that had passed away 3 years earlier. His named was etched in the wall, large and clear as day. It was unbelievable. I felt his presence, his youth, his visit to Israel that he never had. Even though I felt so ill, something had driven me to get to the top. It was Jared, I found my nephew at the top of Masada. There are no coincidences!
Then we had Shabbat in Jerusalem, and that was unbelievable. As we walked in our “Shabbat Pretty” outfits on the cobblestone streets of the Old City, I had this feeling as if I was walking through the bible. Right in front of the Kotel, all 200 of us were singing and dancing together, recently strangers, now good friends. Then suddenly birds started circling overhead, around and around, and I felt the presence of my nephew, my Mom and Dad. They were there with me; there are no coincidences. There I was, in the holy land on Shabbat, an experience that will stay with me always!
Havdalah with the soldiers at The Clayman’s home was one of the most moving experiences of my life. Celebrating Shabbat high above the old city of Jerusalem with the young men and women from the Israeli army, looking into the eyes of these extremely mature “children” and thinking about my own (not so mature children), singing and dancing, celebrating with women from all over the world, it was surreal! Then, the sound of clapping coming from the nearby Arab quarter opened my eyes to the extremely close proximity of the threat to the Jewish people. From that moment on, Israel would remain in my thoughts and prayers always.
These are just some of the highlights from my JWRP trip to Israel. It would take pages to describe all of it. And of course I can’t forget about Lori’s lectures. They were so informative, inspiring, thought provoking and sometimes life changing. I hope sharing my experiences with my three sons has made an impact on them. I do expect that two of them will be off on Birthright sometime soon. I left Israel a better and more connected Jew with a new found love and respect for Israel. But it doesn’t end there.
I am now deeply connected to our leaders, Esti, Rivki and Shiffy. They are such warm and wonderful women. I am in awe of their openness and willingness to answer any and all questions. I have learned so much from them and I am more connected to Judaism because of them. They open their homes and their lives to us. They have given me a much better understanding and respect for their Orthodox way of life. I attend Rivki’s Parsha classes when I can, Shabbat Dinner’s at Esti’s, Challah baking, BBQ’s, and I happily opened my home for the Long Island JWRP Passover get together. They are “the very best” leaders, and they are my friends!
I applaud The JWRP’s mission to bring values back to the world by bringing women from all over to Israel, teaching them values, and giving them tools to be better women, wives, mothers, and Jews. Every Jewish person needs to visit Israel. Thank you JWRP for giving me this incredible opportunity!