Speaker kicks off JWCA’s second year
A guest speaker involved in taking Jewish mothers on spiritual trips around Israel will help the Jewish Women’s Connection of Atlanta kick off its second year of reaching out to and educating women.
Canadian television personality Adrienne Gold, one of the trip leaders for Lori Palatnik’s Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, will speak to an expected crowd of 120 women at a Sandy Springs home Sunday, Aug. 30.
JWRP is like a Birthright Israel organization for Jewish mothers. Women who have children under age 18 at home and haven’t been to Israel as adults are eligible to take 10-day trips with other women from their home city. Women must pay their own airfare, but the travel within Israel is free.
Three of the women on the first JWRP trip from Atlanta about six years ago, Helen Zalik, Karen Kaplan and Bev Lewyn, are the organizing force behind JWCA, which aims to bring the spirit of that Israel trip home to Atlanta.
“We just loved what we had experienced. We wanted to give that inspiration, that connection, to more people,” said Lewyn, who serves as co-president of JWCA with Zalik while Kaplan leads the group’s communications.
JWRP works with the Atlanta Scholars Kollel, and for a time the kollel was able to support the efforts of Atlanta trip alumnae to remain connected and reach more women. But what Zalik calls a “sisterhood without walls” and a “spiritual JCC” outgrew the kollel and its women’s group, Bena.
Bena head Julie Silverman said her wing of the kollel focuses on in-reach, providing learning opportunities at the Congregation Beth Jacob and Congregation Ariel campuses for women who have a solid base of Jewish knowledge. JWCA, which also is a kollel project, is about outreach; it’s an entry point for Jewish women of all backgrounds to learn and be inspired.
“I think the main thing is just we know what being deeply inspired feels like,” Lewyn said. “It really is coming from a sense of love and wanting to share that spirit with others. Almost everyone, to a woman, feels the same way.”
The group connects women from all streams of Judaism, including the unaffiliated. While there are other cross-denominational groups, Lewyn said, JWCA’s focus on spiritual meaning sets it apart.
“We want to bring back the power of the Jewish woman and the ability to be powerful and unified,” said Kaplan, who envisions a time when Jews again fill the roles that feel right without applying divisive labels such as Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.
“There is a thread among us, a neshama that’s burning bright,” she said. “We have to do good in the world, have to be connected and unified.”
Zalik said the idea behind the women’s group is that once you inspire the mothers, you change the families. She’s an example: That first JWRP trip changed the Soviet native from a natural skeptic about the Jewish community to someone who sends her daughters to the Epstein School, serves on the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, and is devoted to the idea of Jewish unity.
JWCA takes a three-prong approach to build that unity: education that inspires women and provides practical knowledge; experiences that are social and spiritual; and encouragement to take the JWRP trip, although typically only 50 women a year can go on the trip (the next one is Oct. 19 to 28).
“Change the woman, change her home, change the community, change the world,” Kaplan said of the process. “Come join us for an afternoon of inspiration and feel the power of the Jewish woman.”
JWCA holds an event each month, Zalik said, with a large event — an out-of-town speaker such as Gold or a Shabbaton — every six months.
“We hope they take away many things,” from spiritual growth and a connected feeling to an increase in their number of Jewish friends, Zalik said. “We want them armed with a strong Jewish identity and inspired to live a Jewish life.”
Who: Adrienne Gold
What: Jewish Women’s Connection of Atlanta kickoff
Where: 4889 Northland Drive, Sandy Springs
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 30
Cost: Suggested $10 donation; RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to secure one of the 120 spaces