By Ben Tinsley
DALLAS – Empowering. Liberating. Life-altering.
Just some of the terms used to describe the most recent leg of MOMentum — the eight-day journey through Israel that comprises the flagship program of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project.
Twenty-seven Dallas-area Jewish women — part of 400 — participated in this Oct. 18 through Oct. 26 trip. MOMentum has dispatched more than 6,500 women to Israel since 2009.
The late October trip would normally have been a powerful experience. But it was even more so because of the wave of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem that made global headlines last month.
Heather Behr, one of the 27 Dallas-area women who journeyed to Israel, said it was amazing.
“This program gave me the opportunity to take a step back from my ‘always on the go’ reality and be reminded of the importance of my relationship with God, my family, friends, Israel and religion,” Behr said. “I left Israel feeling spiritually rejuvenated and ready to implement a lot of the ideas into my daily life. This trip was truly a gift of a lifetime that will forever have an impact on me. I (hope) every Dallas mother gets the same experience to enrich their soul.”
The JWRP program — supported by more than 100 organizations around the world — is based out of Rockville, Maryland and led locally by DATA of Plano and the Jewish Learning Center of Dallas.
The mission is one of transformation. Jewish women are encouraged to rediscover themselves and their values. The end result is to live an inspired life that can be shared with their families, communities and the rest of the world.
Mahra Pailet, one of the Dallas participants, said she understands that message now more than ever.
“The entire trip was about empowering women,” Pailet said. “If you transform a woman, you transform a family. You transform a community and that (ultimately) reaches across the world. One trip to Jerusalem can transform the world.”
Despite the worldwide media attention the violence in Jerusalem received during the month of October, the women on the trip were well-protected, Pailet said. At no time were members of that group believed to be in danger, she said.
“The people of Israel we saw and met were so appreciative that we were there,” Pailet said. “Everywhere we went they thanked us for coming.”
Devorah Zakon said she was impressed by the spirit on the trip.
“While any trip to Israel is always considered meaningful, (there was a) particular achdut (unity) of our Dallas-Plano group, as well as the entire group,” Zakon said. “We all came from different backgrounds and affiliations but bonded through singing, dancing, learning and having fun together! Our desire to grow as Jewish women and connect in a deep and meaningful way to our Judaism overcame any outward differences and truly unified us.”
Behr said the trip and the program were beyond anything she had ever expected.
“I have heard for years that it was a trip of a lifetime but until I experienced it I could never believe all that I would get from such a program,” she said. “As a wife, daughter and mother of four, I am always on the go without a minute to really think how to strengthen my relationship with my family, Judaism, and Israel.”
Dallas JWRP Co-Leader Hudy Abrams, who has led groups of Dallas women since 2009, said she feels strongly about the need for these trips because they provide Jewish women with the opportunity to connect with Israel and one another in a unique and powerful way.
“I see women come home so excited, with a renewed passion for Israel and Judaism and their family, and it’s only nine days — nine magical days,” she said.
Those who take this trip are not Shabbat-observant and the majority of them have children at home under the age of 18. The women who participate pay only their own airfare; the rest is subsidized.
The rewards are great. Women from Dallas bond with women across the globe. They climbed Masada and visited the Dead Sea — all while enjoying each other’s company.
“This is a sisterhood for all Jewish women to connect with other Jewish women through learning and growing and acts of kindness,” Abrams said. “When these 27 women came back from this most recent trip, they were on fire.”
The next JWRP trips are planned for November 2016, Abrams said.
“We are going to continue bringing women and expressing their amazing energy and light into this community,” she said. “It’s hard to describe, but everyone should take this trip.”
Anyone wishing to inquire about November 2016 JWRP trips can either email Abrams on behalf of the The Jewish Learning Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or Zakon on behalf of DATA of Plano at email@example.com.
List of participants
- Stacey Baer
- Heather Behr
- Susan Bendalin
- Hilary Bernhardt
- Julie Drinkwater
- Stephanie Dubner
- Jennifer Goldman
- Julie Gothard
- Deborah Harris
- Julie Haymann
- Sue Kramer
- Traci Laizerovich
- Alyce Levy
- Mahra Pailet
- Karen-Lee Pollak
- Marni Rael
- Dana Rose
- Sury Sacher
- Lauren Savariego
- Jori Shapiro
- Corrie Shores
- Carrie Sternberg
- Jennifer Winton
- Hudy Abrams
- Devorah Zakon
- Sharon Blumberg
- Tracy Kaye