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First Person: Mom recounts JWRP journey to Israel, impact of trip

It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no.”

Because that has always been one of my philosophies, a year ago I sent a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” email inquiring about Louisville’s first Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) Israel trip – also known as MOMentum – I had no idea my life and my children’s lives were about to be blessed with a positive change.

MOMentum moms on a Tel Aviv beach.

Last November, 16 Jewish moms, all with children under the age of 18, set off for a life-changing journey. Each of us could spend hours telling you about what we did in Israel, what we learned and how we were inspired. We each have favorite parts of the trip, but in the end, there were some very common threads.

Now that we’ve returned and completed six months of our one-year commitment to participate in post-trip education programming and activities, there have already been some powerful changes, among the biggest (for many of us) being the celebration of Shabbat.

Before Israel, I had never brought this beautiful ritual into my home. Today, those of us who occasionally celebrated are now more consistently lighting candles and having Shabbat dinner as many Friday nights as possible. Several of us have begun baking our own challah. My adult daughter recently moved into an apartment. About a week later, she sent me a picture that completely warmed my heart – lit candles and a table set with challah, wine and Shabbat dinner.

This was one small yet huge impact of Israel.

It’s fair to say we all came home from Israel more knowledgeable and empowered, more connected to Judaism and our community, and simply more confident Jews.

Israel motivated us to begin or increase our participation in Jewish organizations and activities, and attend or volunteer at community events. In fact, our trip chairwoman, Dara Woods, was motivated to take on more leadership roles in the community and recently received the Lewis W. Cole Memorial Young Leadership Award at the JCL’s annual meeting.

Among other trip participants, Jaime Schwartz said she feels more confident talking to her children about Jewish life and history. Jessica Springer said the experience inspired her “to look for opportunities for other Jewish people to become more involved (and) more connected to the Jewish community.”

In comparing her youngest daughter’s recent bat mitzvah with that of her older daughter’s three years ago, Jasmine Farrier said, “The first time around, I was obsessed with logistics. The second time around, I was fully engaged in her and the family’s spiritual growth and connection to the synagogue and each other.”

Like Jasmine, each of us came home from Israel with a “renewed spirit.”

Through JWRP, the impact of Israel inspired 16 women to become better Jewish moms, daughters, friends and wives…better advocates for Israel and more involved members and leaders of the Jewish community. Israel changed us for the better.

We are all thankful to the Federation and The J for the amazing opportunity we were given to be a part of Louisville’s first JWRP adventure. We are excited for the next group of 18 women who will join JWRP trip this November. And to young Jewish moms everywhere, we say “Go to Israel! Be inspired and empowered!”

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