When Nikki Shapiro went to Israel on her first Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) Momentum trip in 2011, she became inspired to make a difference and get involved. Five years later, JWRP recognized Shapiro’s devotion with the JWRP Lay Leader award.
Shapiro received the award September 19 at the 2016 JWRP Leadership Conference in College Park, Maryland.
The JWRP Momentum trip – which has been described as “Birthright for moms,” brings groups of women to Israel for eight days to learn about the Jewish homeland and Jewish heritage by fostering dialogue and participation both through the trip itself and through monthly meetings during the year after they return home. The monthly meetings give participants a chance to speak about topics ranging from family and personal growth to Israel advocacy and leadership.
“JWRP is so much more than a trip. It’s a program experience,” said Shapiro. “The trip is just the beginning of the journey. It’s really about everything that comes afterwards.”
Shapiro credits the trip with helping her realize the importance of prioritizing family and community. Moreover, it was through the Momentum trip that she formed close bonds with her fellow participants so that, when she returned home, she wanted to “further the spark” ignited while she was in Israel.
Shapiro worked with Lauren Shaps of JET, who organized the JWRP trips in Ottawa, to chair a leadership team of participants called Sarah’s Tent.
Shapiro went on to work with JWRP as chair of the Global Leadership Council, a new initiative dedicated to creating a global movement of lay leaders to spread JWRP values around the world. She now manages 25 JWRP ambassadors from 12 countries and about 100 volunteers.
Shapiro spearheaded the initiative to involve the Jewish Federation of Ottawa in organizing JWRP Momentum trips and worked with Federation to bring other organizations – including the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, the Jewish National Fund and local synagogues – on board to host JWRP programming and create more opportunities for women to become engaged in the community. A delegation of 36 women from Ottawa will be on the next JWRP Momentum trip to Israel beginning November 13.
Federation Director of Community Collaboration Sarah Beutel said she is extremely impressed with Shapiro’s ability to spearhead a project that will benefit the Jewish community by providing meaningful programming to so many women.
JWRP’s Director of Programs and Leadership Development Ruth Baars echoed Beutel’s sentiments.
“Nikki is such an inspirational leader. She’s tenacious, doesn’t give up and she sees the potential in others,” she said.
Shaps said Shapiro is an inspiration to women who are looking to get more involved.
“Nikki’s desire to give expands well beyond her circle of family and friends to encompass community and the entire Jewish people,” Shaps said. “Through her involvement with JET, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa and the JWRP, Nikki has modelled the capacity for every person to step up, take responsibility and make our community and the world a better place.”
Shapiro was flattered to receive the award, she said, and looks forward to continuing to work with JWRP to increase community engagement.