Our Top Ten Stories of 2018
Enjoy our most-read stories of 2018 — the stories that touched your soul, made you think and encouraged you to take action. The JWRP impacts each of our sisters in unique and spectacular ways. We appreciate everyone who shared her personal journey with us this past year and we look forward to hearing more of your beautiful stories next year!
Jodi Orlow Mackoff is a mother, wife, New York State Supreme Court Judge, and JWRP sister. A passionate, dedicated, and goal-oriented person, Jodi’s professional growth has not been without obstacles. As a young attorney, Jodi faced discrimination as a woman time and time again, but stayed committed to forging her own path in a career she loved. In our conversation, Jodi shared her journey to becoming a judge and what boldness means to her.
When was the last time you were faced with a risky situation and chose to stand up for what you believe in? In the story of Purim, Queen Esther has a chance to save the Jewish people. But if her plan goes awry, she may be put to death. She is filled with trepidation. Yet, with belief in G-d, support from her fellow Jews, and a carefully plotted plan, she finds the courage to stand up for her people.
According to Lori Palatnik, “Courage is finding your Esther moment.” In our conversation, Lori shares Judaism’s powerful lessons about feminism and courage, and how we can activate our inner strength, too.
Ellen Dorfman is a mother, attorney, and JWRP sister who lives in Boca Raton. After leaving a tumultuous marriage, Ellen set out to revamp her life, find herself, and enjoy her incredible daughters. Her journey has not been simple. The nearby Parkland School shooting shook her community to the core, but Ellen has found ways to instill her daughters with strength and positivity. In our conversation, Ellen shares her personal transformation, as well as her advice for raising strong daughters.
When Sharon Litwak’s son, Oscar, was four months old, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. During the next four years of Oscar’s life, he experienced intense treatments. It was challenging for Oscar to spend hours upon hours in the hospital — except when he was able to play in the playroom. Then, he lit up and became a kid again. But, not every hospital had a playroom, and when it did, the room was often closed.
At the age of four, Oscar died in his parents’ arms at home. One month later, Sharon and her husband founded the Oscar Litwak Foundation, a nonprofit that supplies mobile playrooms to hospitals across North America. In our conversation, Sharon shared how she found the strength to create a foundation in her son’s memory and how MOMentum changed her perspective on life.
Born and raised in Colombia, Ethel Yosifon moved to Israel at the age of 17, married an Israeli man, became the mother of two children, and launched a career in the hi-tech industry. Two decades later, Ethel is experiencing a new beginning. She’s a JWRP sister; the co-founder of Parenting with Meaning, a Jewish parenting course for local Israeli women; and the founder of a business that imports supplements for cancer patients. In our conversation, Ethel shares how MOMentum sparked her new journey and why she recommends taking action with a group.
An anthropologist by training, Andrea Mail is adept at immersing herself in a community and understanding its inner workings. At Harvard, she studied women in science and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she studied the Armenian diaspora in Israel. Today, Andrea, who is also a wife, mother of three daughters, and certified life coach, is devoting much of her time to the JWRP as the new Board President. The first non-founding member to be elected to this position, Andrea believes the JWRP’s unique quality stems from how the movement frames each experience in such a positive way. “The Momentum Year-Long Journey is a life-changing experience. By combining personal growth with the experience of the entire group, our JWRP participants experience a true transformation.” In our conversation, Andrea shares her vision for the JWRP, as well as how we can encourage our children’s Jewish involvement despite busy schedules.
Rosh Hashanah is the holiday when we present our case in court. We stand before G-d and share our plans for the year ahead. We remember that in Judaism, we are held accountable for our actions and that we are responsible for realizing our potential each and every year. “G-d doesn’t compare you to anyone else — only to yourself,” says JWRP Founding Director Lori Palatnik. In our conversation, Lori outlines how to create strong action plans for the year ahead and shares how she is preparing for Rosh Hashanah.
Parenting is one of the most important roles we’ll ever have and yet, it comes with the least amount of training. As soon as our children are born, we realize that there are countless ways to parent. Sometimes, we may feel like we have responded well to our children. Other times, we may wish that we could have responded differently. In our conversation with Judy Elkin, a certified professional coach who guides individuals through the amazing and challenging journey of parenting, we discuss parenting without guilt, as well as tips for raising curious and empowered problem-solvers.
When JWRP Trip Leader Ruchi Koval asked her 20-year-old son if he wanted to go skydiving, he immediately said yes. They signed their lives away on waivers and found themselves strapped to parachutes, lifted 10,000 feet in a tiny airplane, and instructed to hold a metal bar on the wing of the plane. Then it was time to jump. “I didn’t have a choice at that moment,” said Ruchi. “If I worried, I knew that I’d miss out on an incredible experience. So, I decided to breathe, take in the view, and trust that G-d had my back.” For Ruchi, the feeling she felt while skydiving was a perfect metaphor for Emunah, faithfulness, and trust in G-d. In our conversation, Ruchi shares how our trust in G-d can decrease our anxiety, as well as a personal experience that reawakened her faithfulness.
This past JWRP MOMentum trip, JWRP participant Margarita Gerzhina from Krasnoyarsk, Russia visited the Kotel with her group. She shared that she prayed at the Wall to find her long-lost family, and she did just that on Shabbat! Her story left the JWRP sisters who witnessed the reunion in tears. It was a true HP (Higher Power) moment!