by Debbie Hirschmann
What do you get when you put 82 Jewish women from Reconstructionist to Orthodox, in a hotel for a Shabbos weekend? (Wait! Is this some sort of bad joke?) No- it actually happened! Let me explain…
It all started with Chana Heller & Sharon Shenker, the fearless leaders of Aish LA’s Jewish Women’s Initiative (JWI), coming up with the inspired idea of a “Shabbos of Unity” for women of all denominations. The Second Annual Shabbos of Unity took place last weekend at the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills. Over 80 Jewish Moms came together around the theme of “The Power of Connection”. Nili Couzens from Philadelphia was the disarming and charismatic lead speaker.
Over the weekend, many women shared their powerful and personal stories about how much the JWI has impacted their lives by connecting them with traditional Judaism and like-minded women who share their interest in spiritual connection and growth. It was the joy of connection personified. The weekend had inspirational and practical classes, great food, quality schmoozing, karaoke, dancing, and ice cream sundaes! There was much laughter and tears and a lot of estrogen!
The JWI women took upon themselves several new businesses including the creation of a jewelry line which was proudly launched on Motzei Shabbos and it grossed $3,700 in the first hour. There was also the creation of an award winning cookbook ‘Try It You’ll Like it” that raised $24,000 for scholarships for the next JWI Moms trip to Israel. It shows how much these women believe in this program. Many women said they never imagined that interacting with Shabbos could be such a special experience. People were also pleased to connect with each other in significant and meaningful ways.
The goal of the Shabbos of Unity is to break judgment, separation and divisiveness that can be found in our Jewish world today. Unity needs to be implemented and when you “love your fellow Jew” that includes the fellow Jew who is right next to you. Alongside our differences is always a remarkable similarity and that is the key to unity for Jewish people, for our families, our neighbors, and other Jewish communities beyond.
Remember this old joke? A Jewish man was found on a desert island, and he showed his rescuers the two shuls he had built there. Why two? The first one was the shul he went to. And the other shul was the one he wouldn’t set foot in!
The Shabbos of Unity was an important step toward linking ourselves back together. Perhaps you can join us next year! No kidding.