JWRP Sister Spotlight: Leora Lewis


Leora Lewis is a wife, mother of three children, and the CFO of a property management company. While Leora’s parents experienced the founding of the State of Israel, Leora has lived in California her whole life. “Because I grew up in the US and didn’t speak Hebrew at home, I never felt Israeli,” she said. Yet, she always felt a deep connection to her family’s country and a longing to be there. In our conversation, Leora shared her family’s fortuitous story of coming to Israel at exactly the right time, as well as her eye-opening experiences during MOMentum.

What inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?

My friend told me that the Israeli American Council was hosting a MOMentum Trip and it sounded perfect for me. My parents are Israeli and we have many relatives there, but I don’t travel to Israel frequently. Still, I feel connected to Israel through my soul and I often feel a need to be there. I thought MOMentum would make it possible for me to forge an even deeper connection to Israel and to see Israel from a new perspective. Even though I was so busy with my work and my kids, I’m so glad that I jumped at the opportunity. I’m always looking for ways to inspire my family with Judaism — and MOMentum gave me so many new ways to do so!

What were some of the highlights of your MOMentum experience?

Our first dinner together at Deck’s was incredible. Growing up in a secular area of San Gabriel Valley where there were five Jewish kids in my entire high school, I never had many Jewish female friends. When I saw hundreds of Jewish women celebrating together for the first time, I got butterflies! I was so excited to see Israel with them and to share such a memorable experience together.

Visiting Independence Hall in Tel Aviv was eye-opening for me and connected me to Israel in a whole new way. Listening to a recording of David Ben-Gurion declare the establishment of the State of Israel made me feel like I was in my parents’ shoes. I imagined them listening to that very same broadcasting. I had a sense of how Jews felt at the time. They were being attacked from all sides and yet, they survived. It was at that moment that I knew that Jews will always survive. We may have to fight for our survival, but ultimately, we’ll make it through.

Can you tell us about your family’s arrival in Israel?

My mother was born in Egypt, and she and her brother used to travel to Israel every summer to visit their grandparents. In 1947, when she was 16, she and her brother made a pact to stay in Israel — whether or not their parents joined them, too. Their decision pushed their parents to leave Egypt, which was good because if they hadn’t left then, they would have lost everything. My father was born in Germany in 1925. When he was a young boy, his piano teacher told him, “I can’t teach you anymore.” His family decided to move to Poland and then moved to Israel in 1932. My father served in the Haganah, the pre-state Jewish military in Israel. He delivered messages across the country on his motorcycle and also repaired the army’s motorcycles.

What was your family’s life like in Israel’s early days and what is it like now?

In Israel’s early days, life was hard. My dad was an auto mechanic and it was difficult to find work. There was also food rationing. Before my parents got married, my grandmother saved eggs for weeks in order to bake cookies for their wedding. They did everything themselves and didn’t have the conveniences that we have today. My parents moved to the U.S. in 1957. The landed in New York and they took a road trip to California, where they settled and created a family.

Today, I love keeping in touch with my family in Israel, which I do much more since returning from my MOMentum Trip. I find that they — and Israelis in general — are very happy people. You might think that because they deal with missiles shooting down on them for weeks at a time that that wouldn’t be the case. But while their day-to-day lives are more stressful, they are also filled with joy. They really know how to let go and enjoy their family and friends. 

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