Connecting and caring through conversation and yoga
By Deb Silverthorn
The Binah Cancer Support group of Jewish Family Service (JFS) of Greater Dallas brings women together to connect, to learn, to exhale and to support one another. With Jewish perspectives to promote healing, inspire relief and support, the group’s next meeting will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, at JFS, 5402 Arapaho Road.
Binah is a Hebrew word meaning “understanding” and is often used to refer to women’s inner wisdom.
Beth Broodo, JFS’ program director and clinician for breast cancer support, guides the Binah group. She said that reducing anxiety and increasing feelings of well-being and connectedness are among the purposes of the group, focusing on insights and encouragement. Participants are not pressured to share any medical details that may make them feel exposed or vulnerable.
Broodo said, “I want to encourage anyone looking to feel calmer and more positive about your future to try our support group.”
The program began with a grant from Ann Rosenberg, who wanted to do something in memory of her daughter Margot Rosenberg Pulitzer. “She wanted to provide a support group for women where they could be comforted and nurtured by one another,” said Broodo, who still provides a nosh, an original request from Rosenberg to inspire warmth and care.
Binah Cancer Support Service began in December 2005. While it’s no longer covered by a grant, JFS has made it a permanent program. It has hosted walkathons, visits from nutritionists, lymphedema specialists, oncologists, yoga teachers, authors, rabbis and others over the years. It has launched groups for spouses, a journaling group, a couples’ group and another group more spiritual in nature.
The support group meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Since 2012, Broodo has led a free, women-only, modified yoga session at 3 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday at the Aaron Family JCC in the Mind & Body Room. The class, which is open to JCC members and non-members, is designed for cancer survivors and others dealing with trauma, anxiety or stress. It also teaches pain-free techniques including guided imagery, decompression, breathing, stretching and meditation to promote health and well-being.
Leslye Geller, diagnosed in 2015, was not looking for a support group. Her impression of a support group was a depressing one, conjured in her own mind — and she wasn’t looking for fear-invoking and sad stories. Needing to gain strength after her surgery, she turned to Broodo’s yoga classes at the J and was then inspired to at least try the group “once.”
“I wish I knew then what I know now and throughout my experience because it is anything but a pity party. It has helped me focus on discovering and processing my experience and feelings relative to being a cancer survivor,” said Geller.
She added, “I’ve met women of all ages and at all stages — those recently diagnosed and going through treatment as well as those post-treatment — and it changes over time. Beth provides exercises that push us to think and feel. It’s almost impossible to walk away feeling alone or without an ‘aha’ moment.”
After discussing each session’s topic and working on a personal insight exercise, participants are encouraged to share at whatever their comfort level. The group’s intention is to provide an opportunity to share, to listen and to provide an empathetic space.
Laurie Sutkin remembers crying the first time she joined the group after her surgery in 2018 because she felt safe.
“I found I could talk and listen and there were so many versions of my own story. It was through this group that I found an inner strength while exploring my emotions. At one point I thought I was ‘done’ and didn’t need the group but I stayed on to support others through their journey.
“By staying, I too am always still learning and finding care and support for myself. Beth is amazing and I adore her such that she’s inspired my donations to JFS. We talk about many things beyond breast cancer, about learning and growing in so many ways,” Sutkin said.
Broodo’s goal is always to focus on quality rather than quantity. She said, “Each woman is a world unto herself. It is a real feel-good group and ladies leave feeling more connected and supported, which has been shown to increase the [effectiveness of the] immune system.
“The theme of our classes and the truth for each of us is that every day is a gift. Self-care, self-awareness, finding connection and giving fearlessly and wholeheartedly is important to every one of us,” said Broodo.
For Geller, Binah is a constant place to learn about oneself and the tools to make one’s way through the disease and after recovery.
“How you live as a survivor changes over time. For me, after nearly eight years, Binah is still meaningful because each person’s experience brings value to every other person,” Geller said.
For more details or information, visit jfsdallas.org/services/adults/cancer-support or email Beth Broodo at firstname.lastname@example.org.