JWRP Sister Spotlight: Sheri Heller
Sheri Heller is a wife, a mother to four children, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, an attorney, a volunteer with hospice patients and young adults with learning disabilities, a JWRP sister, and a JWRP madricha. Amidst a busy and fulfilling life, Sheri, together with her learning partner, was recently named Partners in Torah Partner of the Year. We spoke to Sheri about her MOMentum experience, her Jewish journey, and what gratitude feels like.
Why did you decide to participate in a MOMentum Trip to Israel?
Growing up, I always knew that I was a Jew and I always identified as a Jew, but I hadn’t wholly embraced what it meant to be a Jew. I didn’t know so much of what was beautiful about the religion. I remember feeling sort of like a robot when I was at synagogue — I could follow along, but I didn’t get any true meaning from the service.
When I attended Lori Palatnik's "48 Ways to Wisdom" class, I felt an awakening of my soul. I never heard anyone talk about Judaism in such a beautiful and relatable way. I vividly recall choking back tears. After that, people kept telling me that I should sign up for a MOMentum Trip. So I did.
What did you think that you were going to gain from the experience?
I thought that it would be a journey to my soul. My husband had just recovered from an 18-month illness, so it was the perfect time for me to go. I was excited to express my gratitude in the holiest place in the world.
Can you share a special memory from your trip?
Receiving my own siddur — and taking it in my hands to the Kotel (Western Wall) — was incredible. Devorah, my Trip Leader, had bookmarked the blessing to say at the Kotel, and in between all of the crying, it wasn’t easy to get the words out. But I managed.
How has your life changed since your MOMentum experience?
I feel like I’m carrying a torch in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust, including the person whom I’m named for. Now, I truly feel like I’m living the life I always wanted to live. I live a life of gratitude with the knowledge that everything that I experience in life is for the good and is provided with love by G-d.
How have your children reacted to your Jewish journey?
My four kids are my kids, but they’re also my best friends now that they are young adults. Now that I unplug for Shabbat, my kids know to call me before sundown so that I can bless them. I also bake my own challah and occasionally mail it to them. Just this December, my family traveled to Israel together, too. Ultimately, I believe that actions speak louder than words. If they can see that I’m doing what I’m doing because it’s meaningful to me, that’s more powerful than anything that I can communicate to them verbally.
This year, you also returned to Israel as a MOMentum Trip madricha! What was that like?
Amazing. It’s been two years since my first MOMentum Trip to Israel, and I don’t usually get the opportunity to look at where I am today versus where I was two years ago. But once in Israel, I realized that I was in a completely different place — spiritually and personally, and I’m still growing everyday.
I was also thankful to show the group of women whom I traveled with that Judaism isn’t one-size-fits-all. Instead, it’s about finding the essence of who you are, going on a journey, incorporating some of the things you learned in Israel into your life, and then building upon that. The key is not to be stagnant.