JWRP Sister Spotlight: Susan Stillman
Susan Stillman is a wife, mother of four children, trained social worker, and JWRP Sister and City Leader who lives in Potomac, Maryland. As a breast cancer survivor and the mother of a child with a rare genetic disorder, Susan’s optimism, strength, and down-to-earth attitude have helped her meet the challenges in her daily life. Susan shared with us how she stays positive and present, as well as her tips for raising resilient children.
What inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?
My parents first met Lori Palatnik because they attended the synagogue where Lori taught. When my sister heard Lori speak there, she invited Lori to speak at her synagogue in Indiana. Later, she organized a MOMentum Trip, and encouraged me to get involved with the JWRP. When I found out that the Bender JCC of Washington, DC, where I’m an active member, was hosting MOMentum, I decided to apply. Our MOMentum experience took place during a war, and even though 11 women dropped out, I still decided to go.
How did MOMentum impact you?
My MOMentum experience reminded me that I am a part of something much bigger than myself and that Judaism can add so much meaning to our lives. Seeing Israel’s beauty, learning about the Jewish homeland’s history, feeling the power of Jewish women, and attending spiritual lectures created a very impactful MOMentum experience. MOMentum led me to become more intentional about my speech and my actions. It has also made me more thoughtful in my marriage and parenting. Lori says, it’s important to put Judaism into our kids’ hard drives, and I agree with her.
When I returned from Israel, I became a City Leader to help recruit local women for MOMentum Trips with the Bender JCC. Since then, we’ve hosted three MOMentum experiences and have included JCC programs as part of our Year Long Journey, including a Jewish Literary Festival and a Jewish Film Festival. It’s exciting for me to create programs that keep our women engaged, build our community, and develop leaders!
How do you stay positive and present, amid the challenges in your life?
My mother was my role model, and she helped make me the person I am. She was a very positive person, and I’m always striving to be positive, too. Each morning when I wake up, I thank G-d that I’m here. If I experience a bad night, I think, thank G-d the night is over. Believing in something that’s bigger than me gives me a lot of strength and comfort. I try to be thankful for all of the blessings in my life — my strong marriage, wonderful family, and great friends. We only live once and things can change in an instant, so you just have to seize the day. I also recently started taking a storytelling class because, as Lori says, “Life happens outside of your comfort zone.” When I push myself to do new things, I feel more alive.
What are your tips for raising resilient children?
I think it’s important to let your kids know that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Each child is one person in the family and we all need to work together. Encourage your kids to express gratitude because grateful people live more meaningful lives. Try not to be a helicopter mom. Kids need to be able to make their own decisions and mistakes. Don’t get mired in the minutiae. Let your kids enjoy being kids. Know that your kids are always watching you, so model behavior that makes you proud.
To read Susan’s musings, check out her blog here.