JWRP women back from Israel after ‘Shabbat of a lifetime’

The 2017 JWRP Louisville Mission during a visit to Jerusalem. (photo provided)

Two years ago, Dara Woods was surfing the Internet when she came across photos her friend had posted of a recent trip to Israel.
She googled the program her friend participated in – the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project – then decided to reach out to it, asking if she could join the Indianapolis chapter on its upcoming journey.
JWRP brings together Jewish women in their own communities to learn, celebrate and grow together in their Jewish faith. That’s why Woods couldn’t join the Indy chapter.
To her delight, though, JWRP officials talked to her about bringing the program to Louisville.
Woods approached Sara Wagner, president and CEO of the Jewish Community of Louisville, who loved the idea.
She then participated in the interview process to select the 16 women who would make the trip to further connect with their faith and pass along their knowledge gained to their children.
With the group assembled, they embarked on a 10-day trip that connected the women to their faith as well as their culture.
That was in 2016. This past November, Woods was the Madricha for the JWRP group and used her experience from last year to guide and teach the group.
“We went a day and a half early this year,” she said. “We visited our partnership region in the Western Galilee and were able to become exposed to what the Federation is supporting.” Susan Rudy, a trip participant says, “I have been involved in partnership programs for over 10 years and visiting the Western Galilee for the first time connected all of the pieces for me. I enjoyed re-connecting with Israelis who have visited Louisville over the years including the women with the Cooking with Dialogue program, and Sveta, a Shlichim chaperone who stayed at my house one summer.”
They visited the Cooking with Dialogue group which includes Jewish and Arab Israeli women who traveled to Louisville in 2016 on an outreach mission to the Jewish community.
The women traveled across the country by bus, which included groups of women from other cities –
Austin, Phoenix, Omaha – as well as
our native Israelis. Spending time with the natives allowed the Louisville JWRP women to experience what day to day life is like in Israel.
The group floated in the Dead Sea, volunteered with troubled teens in Tel Aviv and participated in other enrichment programs throughout Israel.
Upon returning to the states, these women began a year-long commitment to further live and grow in what they learned from their trip overseas.
“Not only is the trip physically and emotionally draining, it is designed to reignite the spark of Judaism in Jewish women,” Woods said. “The year-long commitment is in place to help these women continue growing in their faith, creating relationships and developing ideas on how to raise their children in the Jewish faith with the toolbox they have been given from the trip.”
As a rule, women are limited to participating only one time in the JWRP. Woods Dara, who acted as madricha, or team leader, was an exception. Her experience as a participant on the trip the first year, enabled her to help women prepare for their trip, process happenings and feelings during the journey and debrief after their return home.
In addition to Woods, Jennifer Jacobson, Jennifer Shrensker, Cari Hatch, Amy Adams, Michelle Bornstein, Micah Daniels, Julie Ellis, Anna Feitelson, Amy Fouts, Nicole Gaston, Elizabeth Geller, Heather Gladstein, Julie Hollander (co-city leader), Alison Roemer, Susan Rudy, Allison Schwartz, Joan Simunic, Becky Swansburg (co-city leader) and Hunter Weinberg joined this year’s mission.
“This trip really is a Shabbat of a lifetime,” Woods said. “It’s really special to spend Shabbat in Jerusalem and see the way life is lived there.”

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