Eden-LA Program Aims to Improve and Transform Women’s Experiences
Over the past year, mikvah attendants, rebbetzins, and other female leaders of the greater Los Angeles area had the opportunity to participate in a unique program run under the expert guidance of The Eden Center of Jerusalem. The program – called “The Eden-LA Prevention and Intervention Training Program” – focused on dealing with the mikvah, women’s health, and intimacy.
With the initial support of Rabbi Gershon Bess, Rabbi Yosef Shusterman, Rabbi David Zargari, Rabbi Eliezer Muskin, and Rabbi Kalman Topp, women in the community took charge to make this course happen. The Eden Center, Jerusalem worked with eight fabulous local facilitators – Debbie Fox, Chaya Sauer, Shirley Lebovics, Raizel Rubin, Jill Kapenstein, Batya Nourparvar, Debbie Summers and Sima Semmel. They led an all-star cast of speakers during the program’s 12 sessions. The topics under discussion included OCD, domestic violence, sexual abuse, communication, breast health, postpartum depression, intimacy, infertility, and sensitivity and respect to all women coming to the mikvah.
Devorah Weider, one of L.A.’s beloved and seasoned mikvah attendants, shared her excitement and appreciation for the program. “I loved all the presentations and the group process and felt it is so helpful and important.” She appreciated the role playing and the interplay between facilitators and the group, and she felt that “seeing the techniques in action was very helpful, and is grateful for the concept and the execution of the program.”
Likewise, another participant appreciated the relevance the sessions had for the women she is “involved” with, much more than she had expected. “When I think back to the first classes, I see that from Professor Fox I understood how to be sensitive to women who suffer from OCD and not try to minimize their pain. From Gabrielle Kaufman I learned about dealing with the pain and isolation of postpartum depression. There were so many outstanding presenters. I am so grateful for this opportunity and the knowledge it has given me!”
Founder and Director of The Eden Center, Jerusalem, Dr. Naomi Marmon Grumet created the Eden Center after 20 years of research in which she interviewed hundreds of women about their experiences with mikvah and taharas hamishpachah. She explains, “Seven years ago The Eden Center was founded with the goal of enhancing the mikvah experience and connecting it to women’s health and intimacy education. Eden is working to infuse mikvah with relevance to the lives and challenges of couples today, and to connect women to resources for health and support within the larger Jewish community, not just our Jerusalem-based home. I am proud that The Eden Center has become an organization playing a pivotal role in elevating the mikvah experience in L.A. and worldwide.”
Dr. Marmon Grumet continues, “Thus far, we have trained over 250 mikvah attendants in thirteen cities in Israel, who reach over 70,000 women. In Los Angeles, between 45 and 60 women attended each week of the 12 session course.”
The Eden Center tailored their course to the needs of women here in L.A. “Los Angeles was a unique and wonderful community for us to work with because, in contrast to Israel, where we work with cities, L.A. really defines ‘community.’ While there are diverse populations with different cultural expectations, we worked together well, highlighted and defined the different needs, but joined together to elevate the mikvah experience. This program represented the unifying force the mikvah can bring to the community. The success would not have been possible without the strong leadership in L.A. that encouraged the program and the unifying elements that our program represented. It was truly an honor for me to get to know all the different leaders and agencies that work tirelessly to make sure that all women using the mikvah in L.A. are cared for and appreciated.”
After the success of the initial course, the local team of Jill Kapenstein, Shelly Fenig, and Emily Jacobson created a separate non-profit organization called Eden-LA to continue exploring issues related to the family and intimacy. Though not directly connected to The Eden Center in Jerusalem, their inspiration came from the success of the program.