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Impact of Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project goes far beyond a trip to Israel

While at Eretz Bereshit, this past summer’s KC Kollel/Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project participants struck a tree yoga pose as a symbol of the empowerment they felt from our JWRP experience.

How do you sustain the continuity of the Jewish people? It is a daunting thought if you sit with that question alone. However, a group of eight Jewish women came together in 2008 from different walks of life, affiliations, observances and ages to begin a powerful dialogue. The conclusion was that by bringing Jewish women from around the world together in Israel, they could empower these women to return home and infuse Jewish values within themselves, their family and their community.

 

That group of eight women became the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP). Since 2009, with support from Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, more than 8,000 Jewish mothers from 150 partner organizations in 26 countries spanning several continents including Australia, Africa, Europe, North America and South America have experienced Momentum trips to Israel. Participants commit to getting involved in activities when they return home, including community events, Israel engagement programs, Jewish education, global learning, leadership development and Momentum Israel missions for husbands.

This summer I was privileged to lead a group of 10 women to Israel as part of the KC Kollel/JWRP partnership. Each woman had a unique experience and has reported that their growth during the trip was positive and healthy in a way that was so unexpected. In order to continue the participant’s growth experience, the KC Kollel is committed to provide many opportunities to remain involved in Jewish learning and embedment into our community. Locally, our group meets monthly with Rabbi Shaya Katz to continue our Jewish studies.  

Upon our return from the trip I was hired as the director of community engagement for the KC Kollel. To continue building the strong partnership between the KC Kollel and JWRP, I attended the JWRP Leadership Conference in College Park, Maryland. More than 300 women from nine countries attended the three-day conference. The conference featured speakers and discussions about how women who go on the JWRP Israel experience trip can bring their experiences home to their community to make a positive impact.

The theme of the conference was Own Your Story. This is important because the trip to Israel is a very intense, emotional experience and very difficult to describe to other people once you return home. But in order to continue to increase the number of women participating in this opportunity, one must be able to communicate how the Israel experience has changed her life. During the first day, Ariel Halevi, founder and co-owner of Vayomar, an Israel-based communications consulting firm, provided us with the tools to help each one of us to tell our own story. As she told us, every story has a future memory.

The story I am going to share with you is the one that I had on my first KC Kollel/JWRP trip in 2014.  

Three years ago I was a bit lost in my personal and spiritual life. My friend and teacher, former KC Kollel rebetzin Gevura Davis, suggested that I apply for the JWRP Israel trip. I have a deep love for Israel, so it did not take much convincing for me to apply. I had been to Israel many times before, but on this particular trip I was looking for something different. Something that would bring my soul back to life.

On our first night in Israel, Lori Palatnik, the founder of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance project, spoke about marriage and relationships in one of the most humorous talks I had heard in a really long time. Immediately I felt a connection to this woman. I introduced myself to Lori and surprisingly she knew who I was because she had posted my blog on the JWRP website earlier that day.

Lori asked me what I was doing on this trip and I told her that I have been to Israel many times before and I’ve done all the pertinent historical pieces to Israel. This time, I needed something deeper, something more spiritual, more connecting to awaken my soul. And lo and behold a few days later Lori approached me with an opportunity. The first night we were in Israel was the day that the bodies of the three boys who had been kidnapped by Hamas terrorist were found. Lori asked if I would like to join her the following day to pay a shiva call to the Fraenkel family, whose son was one of the victims.

As I waited in line to pay my respects to Rachelle Fraenkel, mother of Naftali, I was in awe of her poise, her dignity and the gentle way she spoke with every visitor. The four minutes that I spoke with Rachelle reminded me that when you have faith in your beliefs, when the power of Hashem is on your side, then no matter what happens in your life you can endure. You can handle everything with grace, compassion and commitment. I am blessed to have had this exceptional experience and cannot wait to pass it on to others.

The JWRP’s mission is to empower women to change the world through Jewish values that transform ourselves, our families and our community. My story, along with the stories of the nearly 60 others out in the Kansas City Jewish community who have taken this trip, do just that. The opportunity is coming around again for another group of women in the summer of 2017.  

My vision for the future is that the KC Kollel/JWRP will be flooded with applicants who want to take part in this summer Israel experience. Donors and organizations will ask how much it will take to send another bus of women to Israel because the women who come home from this experience are having such a positive impact on the Jewish community. Our community will be full of strong Jewish women leaders who work collaboratively as one machine to empower all women to teach their families Jewish values, to love the State of Israel and to ensure that the continuity of the Jewish people is never going to be an issue again.

For more information about the KC Kollel/JWRP partnership, email Andrea Levitan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..