Thirty-six women from Ottawa were in Israel from November 13 to 23 taking part in a Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project Momentum trip. Participant Lenora Zelikovitz reflects on her experiences and what the trip meant to her.
This past November, I had the privilege of travelling to Israel on the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) Momentum trip. JWRP, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Ottawa, sponsored 36 women from Ottawa, in the hopes of connecting us to the land of Israel, to our Jewish values and to each other, in a uniquely meaningful, spiritual and empowering way. Far more than just a “trip,” this incredible journey did all of that and more.
The JWRP Momentum trip, often referred to as “Birthright for Mommies,” empowers women to change the world through Jewish values. Along with approximately 400 other women from around the world, we had the opportunity to tour Israel, connect with the other trip participants and discover how to bring Jewish values back to our families and communities.
The JWRP organizers ran the trip like a well-oiled machine. From the moment we landed in Tel Aviv, we boarded buses to head north, climbed Masada and floated in the Dead Sea, celebrated Havdalah with our new sisters, rode camels at Abraham’s Tent, and so much more. Our needs and expectations (and range of emotions) were expertly managed by our group leaders and the guide teams travelling with us.
One of the highlights of the trip for many of us was the time we spent in the Ottawa partnership region in the Upper Galilee. While we all recognize the important role our Federation plays in providing financial support to Israel, to be able to actually see where our money has gone and the difference it has made, and continues to make, was truly magical.
We detoured from the main JWRP itinerary for a day-and-a-half to see how our community contributes to this area. Ottawa’s Jewish community is part of the P2G (Partnership 2Gether) program that pairs seven Canadian communities with five communities in the Upper Galilee. Barbara Crook, chair of Ottawa’s P2G committee, spent the day with us, visiting the Hanadiv School, which is partnered with the Ottawa Jewish Community School, touring Metulla and the border area with Lebanon, visiting a rape crisis centre and an aquatic centre for disabled persons. To know that our Federation supports these communities and facilities made us all extremely proud. The appreciation shown to us by our partner communities was simply humbling and empowering. We are making a real difference.
In just nine days, we saw so much of Israel. We embraced our spiritual side in the mystical city of Safed, where we toured a mikvah. We learned about the bravery of the Jews at Masada and took pride watching a number of our new Ottawa sisters take part in a ceremony in Eretz Bereshit, where they received their Hebrew names. And, of course, there really is nothing like spending Shabbat in Jerusalem, made even more meaningful by being together with our group of incredible women.
Many of us in the Diaspora have had the fortune of travelling to Israel, whether as teens, young adults, to work on a kibbutz, or perhaps with our families for bar/bat mitzvahs. Those are all meaningful experiences. But to travel to the Jewish homeland with a group of women of different ages, backgrounds and lifestyles is truly an experience of a lifetime. While it may sound like a cliché, it is anything but, when I say I have returned home with a deeper, more personal connection to Israel that includes a heart filled with Jewish values and a sense of empowerment to share with my family and community. This experience has only solidified my involvement in my community and my commitment to Israel. Most importantly, I have developed a sincere and profound kinship with my new sisters. Remember girls, let it flow and let it go. I love you all.