January 15, 2021 | 13th of Shevat, 5782
By Debbie Zimmerman, WLCJ Mid Atlantic Region Education Vice President and WLCJ International Board of Directors Member
Expressing our Gratitude
On this Sisterhood (Women’s League) Shabbat, as on every day, we give thanks for our blessings. As Jews, this begins when we wake up in the morning. We are commanded to recite prayers of gratitude even before we get out of bed. The first words that often roll off our tongues are “modeh ani lefanecha”. I gratefully thank You for returning my soul”. Our Siddur here is telling us something very interesting…to be a wakeful human being is to greet each day by appreciating our surroundings— including the air we breathe and the people that are part of our lives. We give thanks for the morning that brings us life and health, and for Shabbat that teaches us to be grateful for all that life brings us on a daily basis. But what happens when we can’t see the blessings? When all we see are the obstacles and the challenges.
For the past two years, the theme for Women’s League for Conservative Judaism has been “B’Yachad”. The word “B’Yachad” in Hebrew means “together”. This year, we once again have endured the challenge of the Covid pandemic. We have endured sickness. We have been lonely. We have been cautious. So where are the blessings in this? How can we be “together” when we are told to stay far away from one another? How can we be “wakeful”? How can we be grateful?
As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of blessed memory, once said, “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” In the face of the pandemic, our Sisterhoods pivoted….. B’Yachad, together, we made necessary changes.
Together our committees organized events and meetings on zoom. Together we studied Torah and held virtual services. We baked challot together virtually. We attended virtual Hebrew classes, distance learning events, training sessions and programming in our regions and across North America.
We are grateful for the creativity that emerged. Grateful for the camaraderie that continued to build. Grateful for planting the seeds for success instead of allowing the challenge to stop us. Grateful to be “together, B’Yachad, spiritually. By working together, we have had the strength to change the course of our thoughts and actions.
And in our personal lives, we can be grateful for things large and small. Grateful for the first responders, doctors and nurses who risked their lives day in and day out in the hospitals full of patients being treated for Covid. Grateful for the workers who kept the shelves stocked with essentials. Grateful for the phone calls from friends who checked to see if we were well. Grateful for the chicken soup that they brought if we were not. Grateful for the friends who appreciated our calls to them. Grateful for our health and the well-being of our closest friends and relatives. Grateful for the extra time spent with our children who were home for virtual learning. Grateful for our clergy who continued to inspire us in times of crisis. And, grateful for being “wakeful” and noticing what needed to be done and for having the ability to do it.
Together, B’yachad, we made a difference. Together, B’yachad, we will continue to do so.
And so, I offer you a prayer of gratitude. Birkat Hagomel, is a prayer that is often said after recovering from a serious illness or surviving a dangerous journey. We all have survived the journey through the pandemic and have emerged more “wakeful” and “grateful” on the other side.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, ruler of the world, who rewards the undeserving with goodness, and who has rewarded me with goodness. May he who rewarded you with all goodness, reward you with all goodness for ever.
WLCJ MidAtlantic Region Education Vice President,
and WLCJ International Board of Directors
January 8, 2021 | 6th of Shevat, 5782
By Marsha Strongin, WLCJ Treasure
We have been reading about the plagues and this week, Parashat Bo tells of the last plagues and the first Passover. I am always reminded during this time of year of the Passovers that I spent with my family. Although my three sisters and all of our children and (in some cases) grandchildren are spread over 7 states, we try to get as many of us together as we can for Seder. Before COVID began, we were all planning on coming to Texas to my house to celebrate. Unfortunately, because of this modern-day plague, we have had to hold our Seders on Zoom. Having the Seder on Zoom was a small pleasure compared to being able to celebrate them in person. There is something about a crowded room, all singing together, that just does not measure up to what we can do on Zoom.
Geoffrey, my husband, and I did manage to visit my parents in Charleston, South Carolina, for both of my parent’s birthdays last year. We went there in our RV – a three-day trip from Texas and stayed for about a month. That was the first time that my parents saw any of the family in person for over a year!
I recently returned from a visit to Charleston and was joined by my three sisters to celebrate our mother’s (significant) birthday which was on December 21. It was so nice to finally be able to get together in person, even though our children and grandchildren were not able to join us.
I enjoy seeing all of my Women’s League friends over Zoom for all of our programs. When COVID first began, going online to Makom B’Yachad (it was called Psalms, then) was the only real contact that I had on a daily basis with anyone. I made new friends and saw old ones every day and that kept me sane when I couldn’t go anywhere or have anyone come to my house. Now, I still can see those friends three days a week as well as on other WLCJ programs, like the “How to Live Forever series” or the “Jewish Women in Film” series that I enjoy. Those programs bring me together with friends but it warms my heart even more to be able to actually be able to hug my parents, sisters, and brothers-in-law. I keep hoping that next Passover will again see the whole family united. I pray that this plague of COVID won’t last too much longer! I hope that you were also able to see your families over the recent holidays and had as much joy as I did with mine.
Wishing all of you a very happy secular New Year.
Shabbat Shalom to you all,
December 25, 2021 | 21st of Tevet, 5782
By Debbi Kaner Goldich, International President
We Need Tomorrow and Tomorrow Needs Us
“If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?”
-Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, 18th Century Rabbi.
As I read these words this morning in the daily issue of E-Jewish Philanthropy I immediately related them to myself. As Jews, we are taught we can become better tomorrow through our actions today. A few moments later after some self-reflection, I thought about these words in relation to Women’s League and the Pandemic situation. After the past year and all that has happened, I wonder how we enter this new secular new year and be better than we were last year.
We have accomplished a great deal this past year. Our successes have been enormous and include offering sophisticated educational opportunities for learning and engagement, rewriting of Region and Sisterhood affiliate bylaws, creating an International central calendar of activities, preparing and training two classes of consultants, translating our website into eight languages, brought back the WLCJ APP to our cellphones, joining with other organizations such as ADL, JCPA, USCJ and FJMC for programming, connecting with world communities of Jewish women like Uganda and preparing Region leadership through regular monthly trainings to name a few.
How is it that we even have a need for tomorrow after accomplishing all this? Our need for tomorrow stems from the fact that we are a Jewish women’s organization in the 21st century. It is our role to keep our ancient religion sacred and alive. As women we are responsible to maintain the family’s connection to Judaism. As an organization we are responsible to provide educational initiatives that make our movement stronger and provide women the opportunity to do that also.
Make a New Year’s resolution to join us. Many of your Synagogues and Sisterhood affiliates are still not doing full programming due to Covid. Take the time to join Women’s League. Read the weekly newsletter (WL Week) and look for programming that interests you. Register and attend with hundreds of women just like you from all over North America. Volunteer on the Sisterhood affiliate, Region or International level. We have many opportunities and never refuse an offer to help. Feel free to share programming ideas with me and your Region leadership.
Tomorrow, we are a better organization with you. We welcome you and need you to help make us better. We are also here to make a difference in your life. Your tomorrows will be better with us. All you have to do is show up. It is as easy as clicking the Zoom button!
Wishing you all a healthy and happy secular New Year. Stay safe.
Debbi Kaner Goldich
WLCJ International President
December 18, 2021 | 14th of Tevet, 5782
By Barbara Ezring – International Torah Fund Chair
Gifts to Ensure the Future
I’ve been thinking lately about the legacy I want to leave my children and grandchildren. This week I am particularly moved by one blessing in the Torah parashah, Va-Yehi. At the end of his life, Jacob finally met Joseph’s sons in Egypt. He blessed his grandsons as his own sons saying, “By you shall Israel invoke blessings saying, יְשִֽׂמְךָ֣ אֱלֹהִ֔ים כְּאֶפְרַ֖יִם וְכִמְנַשֶּׁ֑ה
God make you like Ephraim and Menashe.” (Genesis 48:20) Today, we bless our sons and our grandsons using those same words.
How will I leave my legacy to my children and grandchildren? I will tell them my stories and I will share precious family objects, each having its own story. I will let my children know what is important to me through my actions now. They will hear the story of my first Benefactor level donation to Torah Fund, the year that my husband was ordained a rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary. I wanted to be sure that future rabbis and cantors would be able to begin their new careers debt-free, as we had. I will share my stories about some special jewelry that I own. I will sit with my children and grandchildren and let them select for themselves the Torah Fund pins from my collection that they will treasure.
What will you do with your pins? Share them with those you love. Let them know that each pin represents your dedication to the future of Conservative/Masorti Jewish education. Gift them to Jewish women in nursing homes who love a beautiful piece of Jewish jewelry. Many members have used their old pins to create beautiful tallit clips. Let your family know why you have these pins, why you donate to Torah Fund.
I donate to Torah Fund so that my grandchildren and their grandchildren will have qualified, dedicated, wise leaders in their synagogues, religious schools, summer camps, universities, and communities. I generously give to the Torah Fund General Campaign each year so that the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles, Schechter Institutes in Jerusalem, Seminario Rabinico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires, and Zacharias Frankel College in Potsdam, Germany will have the funds they need to continue to provide quality programming and scholarships. I give to the Creating New Spaces campaign because I want our students at JTS and at Ziegler to have safe spaces to work and study. I am a member of the Torah Fund Legacy Society to ensure the future of Conservative/Masorti Jewish education. I send Torah Fund ecards and paper greeting cards to celebrate joyous occasions and console a grieving friend.
Join me in creating a legacy that will ensure the future of Conservative Judaism. Donate to Torah Fund, celebrate Judaism with your family, share your stories.
Each Shabbat, we can bless our daughters with the words, “May you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah”. We can bless our sons and grandsons with “God make you like Ephraim and Menashe” using our Patriarch Jacob’s enduring words, part of his legacy to us.
International Torah Fund Chair