Our story begins with 14 hours on a plane from SFO to TLV without any children. No four-year-old sticky hands all over my body – and with nothing to worry about but myself (and my pregnant roommate, who is MUCH more capable than me).
As a lucky recipient of a highly-subsidized 10-day spiritual reawakening -returning to our Jewish “home,” of Israel, Momentum offers this thought at the outset
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
As I wandered through my first day here in Israel, I kept repeating this Hillel quote in my mind while hearing countless stories from all sorts of women who feel stuck, who are searching, who are in search of reinvention, and a renaissance. The thought is that we will tour Israel and lean into Jewish ethics, bring them home and use this momentum (see what I did there?) to change our communities and onwards and upwards. The world was mentioned, but my British Imperialistic upbringing makes me uncomfortable stating it. It’s an intriguing idea and Momentum has now guided 18,000 of these journeys.
This trip is geared towards Jewish moms who have children at home under the age of 18. The ages of the women and their children vary -as well as where they come from. On our two buses today, we had women from LA, San Antonio, Florida, Orange County, and even Israel. We will share these bus rides, discuss and un-stick ourselves from the mud. LITERALLY.
Our day started stuck in the mud at Hadassah’s Meir Shfeyah Youth Village. Founded in 1883, Baron Rothschild purchased an abandoned Arab village and established several agriculture settlements there. In 1925, he gifted the land to Hadassah’s beloved founder Henrietta Szold who had been bringing children over from the Russian pogroms and Nazi Germany. Henrietta Szold was a badass. I read her bio (one of several terribly written options) after being selected for the trip as my trip is co-sponsored by Hadassah. In addition to these amazing youth villages which have now served tens of thousands of children in need, she also established the first American night school providing language and skill services to Russian Jews in Baltimore, single-handedly (at first) trained nurses in then-Palestine to combat eye diseases and eventually founded Hadassah, visiting and organizing Jewish women in America to fund hospitals, soup kitchens, and services to both Jewish and Arab pre-state Palestinians. Again I say, Henrietta Szold is a badass hero.
There aren’t proper words to describe strolling the village, hearing about the 600 students learning agricultural farming, wine-making, and studying in a united-nations like diverse population. They offered persimmons from the property, we tasted the wine (excellent! 3.7 ratings!) and we heard from the students.
It’s an incredible microcosm of good, proving that it’s possible to take people from hideous circumstances, have faith in them, and watch them succeed, side-by-side with what the world would call their natural enemies. Here is a sound-clip from the schools’ most recent arrivals, many of whom still hadn’t learned Hebrew, interacting instead with music:
Can you even believe how good that is?! I’m a professional musician, and I was taken aback.
Biblical rain followed. Seemed appropriate. There is so much Torah in the scenery here. As the clouds and thunder rolled in and out of our day, it was easy to imagine these stories we hear on Shabbats year after year. It seemed the burning bush could be around every corner.
Our day concluded with welcome remarks by our Momentum Trip Leader Nili Cousins, followed by a raucous dance party with maracas, leis, and Israeli flags. Nili focused on taking every opportunity here to promote self-wellness and recharge our batteries. There are so many different women here with different needs; it will be interesting to see if there are trends in the specific groups’ attempts at paradymical change. Or maybe we will just go out, have a bit of quiet for self-reflection and a whole lot of fun.
Meanwhile, back at home -my twins are tracking us on a map at their Jewish preschool, Gan Avraham, at Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland. I miss them like crazy, but I will be a better human when I return from this trip simply from experiencing this for myself. And I can only be for others when I am for myself.
Tory Ross Roman
Hadassah San Francisco
Tory Ross Roman is a former Broadway, TV and film actress, current full-time Mom of 4-year-old twins, and a part-time educator and philanthropic volunteer. Check her out on IG (@torytore) or at her website: ToryRossRoman.com