Ellen Dorfman is a mother, attorney, and JWRP sister who lives in Boca Raton. After leaving a tumultuous marriage, Ellen set out to revamp her life, find herself, and enjoy her incredible daughters. Her journey has not been simple. The nearby Parkland School shooting shook her community to the core, but Ellen has found ways to instill her daughters with strength and positivity. In our conversation, Ellen shares her personal transformation, as well as her advice for raising strong daughters.
What inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?
After divorcing my husband of 26 years, I needed to get away and reconnect with myself and with G-d. A few friends had experienced MOMentum and it sounded amazing. While I didn’t want to travel to Israel alone, I also didn’t want to go with anyone I knew. I wanted to experience Israel completely unattached and free from obligations. MOMentum made it possible for me to find myself, while meeting amazing women from my area, who have not only become my best friends but my community, too.
How did MOMentum impact you?
I had heard that everyone has an “aha” moment during MOMentum, and my “aha” moment happened on the first day. The morning after our dinner at Decks, our Trip Leader, Nili Couzens, spoke about marriage and relationships. My ex-husband had berated me for divorcing him, saying that I’d made a promise in front of G-d to stay with him, and I was worried that Nili’s talk would reflect this idea. Instead, she said that, according to Judaism, if one partner is killing the other spiritually and emotionally, they should get divorced. It was at this moment that a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I felt like I could finally live guilt-free and focus on finding myself and enjoying my children.
MOMentum was truly the beginning of my new adult life. I even celebrated my Bat Mitzvah at the Kotel, surrounded by my JWRP sisters. The experience opened my eyes to Jewish values and also taught me how to search within myself for answers.
How do you support your daughters in the aftermath of the Parkland School shooting?
We live ten minutes from the Parkland School and we know people who were killed. Also, my older daughter graduated from Florida State University and left the library only ten minutes before a shooting occurred there, so, unfortunately, this was not our first experience with gun violence. Life is scary, but I tell my daughters that we can’t let fear dictate what we do and what we don’t do. We need to be aware of our surroundings, but we also need to keep living. Don’t sit back and let other people make the rules for you. Vote and use your voice to make a difference.
What is your advice for raising strong daughters?
Encourage your daughters to find something they’re passionate about and to run with it — whether it’s politics or dance or something else. Listen to what they have to say. Make sure they know what’s going on in the world and show them that you care about what’s going on in the world, too. Teach them to give back. Support them in creating strong female friendships. Together, we really can change the world.
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