Four Jewish women from the L.A. area participated in the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) Leadership Conference held September 18th – 20th in College Park, Maryland. Over 300 participants from nine countries gathered to hone their leadership skills and promote the unity of Jewish women everywhere. This year’s L.A. contingent included Chana Heller, Dr. Susan Berman, Lisa Kodimer, and Karina Gordon.
The first annual conference, in 2013, had 65 participants from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, making this year’s turnout an impressive achievement. During this week’s event, JWRP honored Lihi Lapid and Rachelle Fraenkel with the Pamela Claman Leadership Award. Lapid is an acclaimed Israeli feminist author, while Fraenkel is both a well-respected teacher of Torah and the mother of Naftali Fraenkel, slain by terrorists in 2014. Rachelle Fraenkel transformed her son’s death into rallying point for hope and unity among Jews.
“Rachelle and Lihi both speak on our Momentum trips, and are true examples of Jewish women from diverse worlds who know what it means to love one another based on the values they share,” said Lori Palatnik, founding director of JWRP.
Other speakers included Mindy Scheier, founder of Runway of Dreams and attendee of the first JWRP Fashion trip this summer; Ariel Halevi, founder and co-owner of Vayomar, an Israel-based communications consulting firm; Charlie Harary, an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and leader of the JWRP Momentum men’s trips; Gidi Grinstein, founder and president of the Reut Institute, a non-profit strategy group focusing on Israel and Jewish issues; Janine Kurnoff, founder and principle of the Presentation Company, a communications consulting firm; and Dr. Zeev Ben Shachar, director of Israel education at Hebrew University.
JWRP City Leader here in L.A., Chana Heller, said, “It was transformative being with 250 women from 12 countries who are literally changing the face of the Jewish world. Aish LA, the Los Angeles partner of JWRP, is bringing 94 moms on the JWRP trip this winter to bring the total participants from our city to 340 moms in six years.”
Over Facebook, Clevelander Ruchi Koval shared this thought mid-way through the conference: “So many incredible human beings in one room. So much magic. So much power. So much inviting other people to get brave, get real, share your kishkes, get out of God’s way, hold hands, support a sister, and make a difference on this planet. I am proud to be associated with this organization. I am proud to stand…shoulder to shoulder with these amazing humans, and make this world a better place.”
The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project was founded in 2008 in order to empower women to change the world using Jewish values. Its major project is “Momentum,” a nine-day, highly subsidized trip to Israel. Since 2014, the JWRP has partnered with Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. To date, over 8000 women from 150 partner organizations in 26 countries worldwide have traveled on a Momentum trip.
Momentum participants commit to getting involved in community events, Israel engagement programs, Jewish education, and leadership development when they get home. After JWRP spouses expressed their interest, the program expanded to include Momentum Israel missions for JWRP husbands in 2010.