Last fall, I saw a week’s worth of Facebook photos documenting a friend’s trip to Israel. She used the words “inspired” and “life-changing” when describing the experiences she was having. All I could think when I saw these pictures and words was “I’m. So. Ready.” But with two children who are still too young to appreciate a trip like that, I felt as if this experience would be something to put on my bucket list for years down the road.
Truth be told, I was never ready before. I went through Hebrew School and was a bat mitzvah but through my childhood, I didn’t really know anyone with a personal connection to Israel.
My parents went in the 80’s but left us kids home as, like my kids now, we were too young to appreciate the trip. I had the opportunity to do Birthright Israel after college, but chose not to, and through my 20’s and into my 30’s, going to Israel was still off my radar.
It wasn’t until I had my children and their Jewish identities were at stake that I began to hone in on the adult version of mine. Between PJ Library sending us the most amazing books and CDs and my daughter embracing every holiday (through the help of Jewish pre-school), my Jewish identity started to bloom all over again. It was only through my children, did I realize how important carrying on our traditions really were.
Now, my daughter asks to listen to Debbie Friedman CD’s in the car and we happily sing every word to every song. They use the same Yiddish words at home that I heard though out my childhood. My parents, needless to say, just kvell about this.
My connection to Israel began to grow though having children and understanding the importance of this land to me, to them, and to future generations of Jews. Now when I think about going to Israel, I literally get chills. I’d say that now is my time.
Upon my friend’s return from her trip, I learned that this trip was a collaboration between her local Jewish agency and the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, an organization I had not yet heard of. And she even reported that it was FREE!
I went to the JWRP website, which unfortunately revealed that Louisville did not participate in this program. Women wanting to go on this trip had to be affiliated with a local agency and I immediately made it my mission to make that happen.
As a member of the JCC, I reached out to Sara Wagner, president and CEO of the jewish Community of Louisville, and sat down with her to discuss the possibility of bringing this opportunity to Jewish moms in Louisville. She was so receptive to my agenda of getting Jewish moms in our city to take a trip like this together.
Sara told me that “our ultimate goal is to energize and inspire members of our community to have a meaningful and personal experience so that they will want to be involved in programs and take on active leadership roles.” What better way to do this than by offering a free trip to the place that is the epitome of Jewish connection and a Jewish identity. She was on board. And here we are, only a few months later, presenting this opportunity to the community!
The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP), an international organization working in partnership with the Israeli government, is helping to strengthen Jewish families and cultivate future community leaders by providing heavily subsidized trips to Israel for Jewish mothers. The participants are only responsible for their flights, tips, and application fee.
In return for this generous gift, the participants agree to take part in a 12-month leadership development and education program which takes place one evening each month. Our trip will take place November 7-17 2016.
We want to give everyone in the community an opportunity to apply for a spot on the trip and will hold a recruitment event on Wednesday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. at a private home. A staff person from JWRP will be here in Louisville to present the information about the trip to prospective participants and to answer questions. To receive the address, RSVP to www.jewishlouisville.org/jwrp.
Since it is our first time doing it, we will only be able to take 12 participants on the trip. There are a few criteria that women must meet to be selected for the program: Participants must have children under the age of 18 living at home and preference will be given to those who have never been to Israel before. If you feel that you meet these requirements, I welcome you to join us for this informational meeting.
For me personally, I feel that this trip has the potential to create new female connections with other moms in Louisville who are raising their kids in Jewish homes. More than likely, there will be much commonality in our upbringings and values, making it easy to become fast friends.
I believe the group of moms who take this journey together will ultimately come back a cohesive group of women who will continue to do things together and possibly even become future leaders in our Jewish community. I am so excited that we succeeded in bringing this program to our community and hope that this is the first of many trips offered for Jewish mothers here.