JWRP Sister Spotlight: Nikki Shapiro


Nikki Shapiro is a wife, mother, JWRP sister, co-founder of Sarah’s Tent, an organization for JWRP sisters in Ottawa, chair of the JWRP Global Leadership Council, and past recipient of the JWRP Lay Leader Award. Nikki shared how her MOMentum experience led her to make a life-changing decision and her tips for empowering others to make a difference in their communities.

What inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?

In 2010, when I was the executive director of a synagogue, our administrative assistant went on a MOMentum Trip and returned from it so excited. She had a sparkle in her eye and a new zest for life, and she inspired me to apply for MOMentum, too. At the time, I was trying to to be a super worker, super mom, super wife, and super volunteer, but I wasn’t able to do any of it as well as I wanted to. I hoped that MOMentum would help me become the best version of myself.

How did MOMentum impact you?

Shortly after returning from my MOMentum Trip, I quit my job and decided to devote myself to volunteering in our community. I got involved with JET, the organization that hosted my MOMentum experience, and I helped launch Sarah’s Tent, a division of JET that provides Jewish classes, social events, and volunteer opportunities for JWRP sisters in Ottawa. I helped create Sarah’s Tent because I was inspired by my MOMentum experience, and then Sarah’s Tent inspired the JWRP to create post-trip programming for all JWRP sisters. A few years later, I helped create JWRP’s Global Leadership Council, which is now a network of JWRP sisters from around the world who serve as JWRP ambassadors. Most recently, I helped the Jewish Federation of Ottawa forge a partnership with the JWRP.  A few months ago, they brought 36 women to Israel on their first MOMentum Trip, where I was the main City Leader.

My MOMentum experience gave me a Jewish education for the first time in my life and showed me how Jewish values could help me become a better wife, mother, friend, and person. I’m thrilled that I have been able to pass on those values to my children. Today, my daughter, Neilah is active in her Jewish youth group, and my son, Benjamin, recently celebrated his Bar Mitzvah by reading from the Torah and he is now enrolled in a Jewish Day school. In the spring, my husband and I are planning to travel to Israel for his first time.

Why is volunteering so important to you?

My parents and grandparents and my husband’s family have all modeled the importance of volunteering. I continue the tradition in order to show my children how to lead a meaningful and connected life. I also find that the more I volunteer, the more I want to volunteer. It allows me to contribute to the world, provide support to great organizations that rely heavily on volunteers, and hopefully inspire other people along the way.

What are your tips for empowering women to make a difference in their communities?

First, never ask someone to take on something you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. Also, speak from the heart. People connect with others’ passion. Draw out people’s essence and make them feel comfortable. I also believe that it’s important to keep things fresh by passing on the reins to new leaders. When someone has an idea for a new program, I support her by offering advice, connecting her to other people who can offer valuable guidance, and holding her hand until she’s ready to bring her project to fruition. Once someone sees what she is able to accomplish, she feels confident in her abilities and realizes that she, too, can be a leader.

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