JWRP Sisters in DC Launch Day of Learning and Celebration
On a hot, bumpy bus ride in Israel, Natalie West and her fellow JWRP sister were having an emotional discussion about their children growing older and their own future plans. “That’s when I realized that MOMentum had stirred in me a new feeling of community and joy,” said Natalie. “I knew that I needed to harness this energy and find a way to bring it home through meaningful Jewish engagement for myself, my family and our community.”
Last Sunday, Natalie, together with her co-chair and JWRP sister Debbie Forrest, channeled that feeling into Routes: A Day of Learning, which brought together 50 JWRP sisters in the DC area. Created in partnership with The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and George Mason University Hillel, the theme of the event was women’s empowerment. The day featured diverse sessions, ranging from Emma Lazarus, immigrant poet and activist, the mikvah’s relevance in today’s world, and juggling and coping skills for life. The keynote speaker was Alina Gerlovin Spaulding, who shared how a series of strong, proactive Jewish women transformed her family’s life from Russia to the USA.
Before heading to their classes, JWRP sisters convened in a room decorated with blue and pink flower arrangements, where they took part in an ice breaker. They closed their eyes, focused on a snapshot from their MOMentum Trip to Israel, and shared it with their JWRP sisters — some of whom they knew and some of whom they were just getting to know.
For Debbie, planning and organizing Routes gave her the opportunity to contribute to Jewish continuity in a way she’d wanted to since her MOMentum experience. “MOMentum made me want to stand up and help more women get involved in the Jewish community,” said Debbie. “We’re all so busy with our work and our families, and we don’t usually have the opportunity to set aside time for personal growth. But when we learn, we can bring those lessons to our families.”
While in Israel, Debbie loved seeing other women’s reactions to Israel. She also appreciated that MOMentum brought Jewish women together from all affiliations and backgrounds and gave them the opportunity to openly speak about their practices. “The only way to understand one another is to speak to one another and learn from one another,” she said.
During the day of learning, JWRP sisters savored Israeli food, watched a montage that featured hundreds of photos from each of their trips, took part in a giveaway, and sang “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu,” as they had in Israel. “I wanted the event to feel like a party, and I wanted the women to feel special that they had decided to dedicate a day to Jewish learning,” said Natalie. “Routes was both a reunion and an extension of their trip.”
Most of all, the co-chairs hoped that their JWRP sisters left the event feeling empowered and inspired. “I wanted every woman to feel like she has the power to make a difference in her life and in others’ lives,” said Natalie. “The JWRP inspires women to think about their own Jewish journeys and narratives, and I hope that the event reminded them of their abilities to effect change.”