The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project is partnering with Israel’s Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs to bring 2,500 mothers of varying religious affiliation to Israel for nine-days of touring and education.
The idea is to strengthen Jewish identity in the Diaspora, while including “the feminine essence which is so very important,” Margarita Spichko, the ministry’s manager at the Public Diplomacy Office, told a group of 125 women gathered in Silver Spring for a JWRP leadership conference that began Sunday.
The ministry usually takes a long time determining which programs to financially support, but the Israeli officials were so impressed with JWRP — it currently brings 1,200 women to Israel annually — that it quickly agreed to partner with the project, explained Spichko.
Since it began sending delegations to Israel, more than 3,000 women from 60 cities and 12 countries have taken part in the JWRP trips.
“You don’t understand what a miracle this is,” Lori Palatnik, the organization’s founding director, said of the rapid approval by the Israeli ministry. “It’s like the parting of the seas.”
Spichko noted that between 20 and 30 projects were reviewed by the ministry and “this is the only project approved by the government in 2013.” She displayed the acceptance letter, which called JWRP “the organization we have been looking for. We were extremely impressed with their concept, results and the high caliber and
passion of the staff, board members and supporters.”
Ben Pery, managing director of JWRP, said the ministry agreed to partner with JWRP once the group agreed “to double our numbers” and bring 2,500 women to Israel during 2014. The women are provided with a free trip after paying their own airfare.
The average participant is in her 40s and has children at home, Pery said. “We want the women to come home inspired Jewishly. It’s the women who decide where you are going to live, what schools you are going to.
“We are not trying to make anybody religious,” he continued. “The message is, there is beauty to the Torah that you probably haven’t been exposed to.”
About 200 women participate in each trip, which is nicknamed “Birthright for Mothers.” The program actually is called T.A.G. – Transform and Grow – and allows women to travel as a group in Israel and then continue their journey in their individual communities.
The women attending this week’s conference spent three days listening to speakers and working together to “learn strategies, skills and the tools necessary to turn the inspiration and excitement of your participation into action. This can transform your local Jewish community,” Palatnik said.
Edana Desatnick, a JWRP faculty partner, addressed the conference participants Feb. 9, explaining that a good leader touches people’s hearts. “What great leaders do is they inspire you to do things you never thought you could,” she said.
Other speakers spoke of team building, networking, harnessing the intelligence in the room, fundraising, communicating and avoiding speaking negatively.
“We look at this Leadership Conference as the beginning of our launch pad with the Israeli government. In a short period of time these women will be instrumental in helping us develop new post-trip materials and programs that will extend the reach of the program for weeks, months and years in the future,” Jeanie Milbauer, one of the original eight founders of JWRP, noted in a press release.