This past winter, Jewish Community of Louisville’s president and CEO, Sara Wagner, gave me, Dara Woods, and Lenae Price the green light to begin recruiting Jewish moms with children under the age of 18 living at home to take a life-changing, free trip to Israel. We had 12 spots to fill and, honestly, I wasn’t sure we’d find enough women who hadn’t been to Israel before and wanted to go now.
With mostly word-of-mouth and a Facebook event, I was astounded when 40 women showed up to the informational meeting. Not to mention, many more who expressed interest but couldn’t attend. Ultimately, dozens of women applied to participate in the program.
We approached our partners at the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP), the organization that facilitates this trip, to see if we could get additional spots. We were able to secure four more, bringing us to a total of 16 women we could bring as part of the 2016 Louisville cohort.
We sought women who were eager to connect with other Jewish moms and participate in our community. I was elated to meet so many wonderful, smart, charismatic women, and I’m sure there are so many more out there. You would think more spots would have made the interview process easier, but still, it was a grueling task to narrow the group down to only 16 participants.
After much deliberation, we selected the following women for the 2016 Louisville JWRP trip: Lisa Barnes, Karen Bass, Ellana Bessen, Jasmine Farrier, Tracy Geller, Lisa Hirsch, Lisa Kaplin, Julie Kling, Paola Moretta, Mona Schramko, Jaime Schwartz, Jessica Springer, Julie Strull, Kristen Yoffe and Chair Dara Woods. The J Director of Philanthropy and Outreach Lenae Price will staff the trip. These moms will have the opportunity to experience Israel together in November and have committed to a year of continuing education following the trip.
The overwhelming interest in the program has led Jewish Community of Louisville leadership to explore funding options for a second trip in 2017.
The participants for the 2016 trip have already convened to begin our journey. We met at the home of one of the participants to get to know each other and begin our important work.
The work of the JWRP is focused on “activating enthusiastic engagement with the Treasure of Jewish Life.” This will be done over the next year though programming and curriculum. Our rabbis, cantors, The J, Federation and other Jewish communal staff will facilitate our curriculum, which is focused on different areas including personal growth, parenting, holidays, building our community, Israeli engagement and leadership.
Our participants are excited about the experience that lies ahead. Julie Kling commented, “I am honored to be a part of the inaugural Louisville group. I am thrilled to be able to bring more of the Jewish culture into my everyday life and create deep connections with families in the Louisville community.”
Another participant, Kristen Yoffe said, “I am so excited that the Louisville community is supporting its first ever JWRP trip. Most of the women participating in the JWRP trip from Louisville have never experienced Israel before, including myself. What an amazing opportunity to not only deepen our bond with Judaism and Israel, but also form strong connections with each other and other Jewish mothers from around the world.”
Our hope is that, upon return from this amazing experience, these women will connect on a deeper level, engage others and become the next generation of leaders in our community. Stay tuned to learned more about our adventures.