Personal Conversations


Personal Conversations provide a forum for members to address everyday issues through discussions about obstacles and opportunities, using conference calls and/or easy to access webinars.

January 19, 2023

Discovering Lost Holocaust Family and a Community of Helpers.

To view session, click here.

To view Resource List, click here.

How a book, film, and non-Jews in Poland launched my journey.
In Conversation with Marsha Raimi
WLCJ Southern Region Treasurer
International Holocaust Remembrance Day, marking the day when the Allies first liberated a Nazi Camp, will be observed on Friday, January 27, 2023.
Please join us as Southern Region Treasurer, Marsha Raimi, shares her personal story: how she unearthed a fuller version of her father’s Holocaust history, found survivors and other descendants, and has become a Holocaust educator. Marsha had visited Yad Vashem at age 16, but knew little then, other than that her father grew up in Mlawa, Poland, was interned in the ghetto there, and survived Auschwitz and a death march.  All that changed in 2017, when her sister shared with her a book written by Glenn Kurtz, whose own grandfather, in 1938, had recorded three minutes of his visit to his hometown of Nasielsk, Poland. This occurred just a year before the town was invaded by the Nazis, and nearly all its Jews were deported and subsequently killed. Kurtz’s book, based on his restoration of that film and deep research about the town’s mostly anonymous victims, mentions Marsha’s father has having been born there. This was the beginning of several mysteries, revelations, and connections for her.
Marsha has a fascinating story to tell us of her ensuing dogged research, her association with Kurtz, her two trips to Nasielsk, the living cousins whom she has discovered, and her association with some wonderful townspeople who are preserving Jewish history—all of which Marsha will present in conversation with Vivian Leber.
Marsha will also share valuable insights about how we each might undertake genealogical detective work ourselves or with the help of professionals. The award-winning documentary film, Three Minutes: A Lengthening, based on Kurtz’s book and using the 1938 film footage, is now streaming and available to view before or after hearing Marsha’s presentation.  
Personal Conversations Chair, Vivian Leber, wrote about this film, which she learned of from Marsha, in the Shabbat Letter of September 13, 2022, published by Women’s League.

December 1, 2022

Eager to Travel Again? Learn What’s New in Jewish Heritage Travel. Come Back to Israel, or Explore the World.
To view session, click HERE

Presenters: Iris Hami, Deborah Rose, and Rebecca Stern, with Gil Travel (offices in Philadelphia, New York and Israel).

Do you dream of finally returning to Israel with your family, or are you looking for a fresh travel itinerary to see Israel with a group? How about adding a leg to Dubai? Perhaps Spain and Portugal are calling to you? Or Prague, Berlin, Venice, Buenos Aires, or Mumbai?  As the Covid-pandemic recedes, many of us are raring to get up and go! Wherever we go, we naturally aim to celebrate a place’s multiple heritages and flavors, while finding its Jewish history and culture—and do so kosherly.

Gil Travel Group manages Jewish-heritage travel for 40,000 people a year, crafting trips to Israel and world destinations, on behalf of families and for organizations, such as Birthright, Maccabi USA, Israel Bonds, among others. Its President, Iris Hami, Israel Travel Specialist Deborah Rose, and Jewish Content Specialist, Rebecca Stern, will co-present to us a smorgasbord of new and traditional travel ideas and options. Parts of their illustrated presentation will focus on Greece, Portugal, Morocco and Dubai, and, of course, on Israel. While getting us excited about seeing the world again, they will also address our security and health concerns while abroad.

Gil Travel Group is based in Philadelphia, also with offices in New York and Tel Aviv. (Women’s League presents this educational program as a member-benefit; we have no commercial relationship with the company.)

January 20, 2022

Discovering and Sharing our Genetic Information

To view session click HERE.

Who isn’t curious about what our genes can tell us? Jews are among the best customers for direct-to-consumer genetic tests and their packaged analysis. Are they useful, or confusing? 

We also have well-studied mutations for certain diseases, owing to our ancestors having lived and married in tight-knit communities. 

When is it advisable for us to seek medical genetic testing? What is the genetics counselor’s role? If we do find that we carry a “bad” gene, what’s next? Should we fear the potential for discrimination against us individually and as a people from all this genomic disclosure?

From a wider lens, how do the frontiers of genetic science intersect with bioethics and Jewish standards? And might the discovery of our genetic information and lineage confound our understanding of Jewish identity? 

These and other probing questions will be explored by two experts in their respective fields:

Laurie Zoloth, Ph.D., is the Margaret E. Burton Professor of Religion and Ethics and Senior Advisor to the Provost for Social Ethics, at the University of Chicago. She is a bioethicist and co-editor with Rabbi Dr. Elliot N. Dorff, of Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought. 



Faye Shapiro, M.S., Certified Genetics Counselor, is associated with Cooper Hill Hospital, Camden, NJ., and is a member of the Sisterhood of Congregation Beth El, Vorhees, N.J. 



Contact: Vivian Leber, Chair of Personal Conversations,

On November 4, 2021


Creating Your New Community Without a Partner

CLICK HERE to view this session

Many Jewish women, either through the sudden loss of a partner, or by their own choice, find themselves newly single and are caught off-guard to discover the degree to which the world has been organized for the comfort of couples. The transition may be unsettling, isolating and hurtful. 

Two rabbis each will bring her pastoral experience as well as her personal life experience to a conversation that explores this phenomenon and finds solutions:

When you become “uncoupled” — How might you take positive control of your sense of self? How might you maintain your existing connections in a way that best supports you, or build a new community? What are some practical steps to take you forward?

Fran Hildebrandt, WLCJ Chair of Mishpachah, will moderate the discussion. Vivian Leber, Chair of Personal Conversations, will introduce the program and speakers.

Women’s League members are invited to submit in advance (to their own one-page essay in which they share related personal experiences and discoveries that would be helpful to other women. After the program, those essays will be shared with registered participants.



On March 19, 2021

Organ Donation: Out of the Shadows
People may shy away from discussing organ donation … until they or a loved one face a crisis. In the USA alone, 117,000 people currently await a lifesaving new organ. We hope to highlight the incredible mitzvah of registering for and supporting organ donation. 
This program will illuminate the types of donation, the registry system, today’s medical boundaries, the halachic framework, and ethical dilemmas. We’ll also hear some personal stories from people who have been on the giving and receiving ends.  

The speakers are:

  • Rabbi Dr. Elliot N. Dorff – Rector and Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University; Chair of the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards.
  • Dr. Amy L. Friedman – Transplant Surgeon and the Chief Medical Officer/ Executive Vice President of LiveOnNY, an organ donation network, support, and outreach program.
  • Dr. Michael Kaner – Dentist in the Philadephia area
  • Jeanette M. Brownstein – Florida Region Torah Fund Vice President.

To view session, click here.


On January 21, 2021


What’s Good About Aging?
…and at times when it’s not, how can seniors and their families manage the challenges with less stress?
Renee Glazier, a certified Geriatric Care Manager, now retired, presented a program that takes us through the positives that come with aging, along with its challenges. 

To view video of session, click here.

To download accompanying documents, click here.


October 29, 2020
When Someone Close to You Comes Out as LGBTQ, will you be knowledgeable and open-hearted?
With Rabbi Areiella Rosen and Rabbi Becca Walker

Click here to view or download the video of the session

To download the accompanying slides, click here.


September 10, 2020
Keep Family Relationships Emotionally and Spiritually Healthy During Covid-19 and in an Election Year

A Personal Conversation
Speakers: A leader in Pastoral Education/JTS, Rabbi Naomi Kalish, and Psychologist Alison P. Block, Ph.D.

Click here to view the video of the session


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

A Very Personal Conversation about our Planet: Earth Day 2020:
Fifty Years Later Where Are We and What Should We Do About It? with 
Rabbi Katy Z. Allen


The first Earth Day was 50 years ago, yet threats from climate disruption are more dire than ever. In this time of social isolation brought on by a global pandemic, how is climate change relevant to us and our communities? What can we do? What might we do, both individually and in our synagogues? What difference might it make? What prevents us from acting?
Rabbi Katy Allen, co-founder of the Jewish Climate Action Network, climate activist and eco-chaplain will explore these and other questions and share thoughts about a Jewish response to climate change. 
Rabbi Katy Z. Allen, President pro-temof the Jewish Climate Action Network-MA, and the founder and rabbi of Ma’yan Tikvah – A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long. She received her rabbinic ordination in 2005 from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY, and her chaplaincy board certification from Neshama:Association for Jewish Chaplains in 2010.
Prior to her ordination, Allen worked as a science teacher, a writer and editor of educational materials, and a Jewish educator. She later served Temple Tifereth Israel in Winthrop, MA for three years, worked as a staff chaplain at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for 10 years and then served part-time as a hospice chaplain at CareGroup Parmenter Hospice and Homecare in Wayland, MA, while facilitating spirituality and Earth programs at Open Spirit in Framingham, MA.
She is one of the pioneers in the field of eco-chaplaincy. Rabbi Allen lives in Wayland, MA, with her spouse, Gabi Mezger.

Click here to watch the video of this personal conversation.



Thursday, January 16, 2020

Women’s League Personal Conversation: “Neshama: A Conversation About Bringing Breath (the Physical) and Soul (the Spiritual) Together” with Rabbi Jaymee Alpert.

Click here to watch a video of the conversation.

“So often we find ourselves living either in our bodies (at the gym, on a walk around the block) or in our souls (at synagogue, during a moment of prayer). The ancient rabbis understood that in order to be fully functional as human beings, we need to inhabit both parts of our neshama. Over the last few years, I have been exploring ways to bring breath and spirit/soul together by creating opportunities to exercise while we pray. Please join me for a conversation about reconnecting the physical and spiritual sides of ourselves.” – Rabbi Jaymee Alpert

Rabbi Jaymee Alpert joined Congregation Beth David in Saratoga, CA, as Senior Rabbi in the summer of 2018. She is passionate about Jewish life and strives to create a warm, inviting atmosphere, where people from all backgrounds are welcome, and all questions are valid. She cares deeply about interfaith, interdenominational, and community relations and is an active member of the Saratoga Ministerial Association, also serving on the board of the Addison-Penzak JCC.

Rabbi Alpert is interested in the connection between spirituality and physical activity. She has created a Shabbat morning hiking service and is the co-creator of Neshama Body and Soul, a practice that combines exercise with prayer, in order to help participants connect their physical and spiritual lives. Prior to moving to Northern California, Rabbi Alpert had spent a lifetime in the Northeast, most recently serving Congregation Kneses Tifereth Israel in Port Chester, NY. While in Port Chester, she was the chaplain for the local Police and Fire Departments, a member of the Port Chester Board of Ethics, and past President of the Westchester Board of Rabbis. She is also a Rabbis Without Borders fellow.

Rabbi Alpert is a graduate of Brandeis University, holds master’s degrees in Jewish Education and Jewish Women’s Studies, and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2003. She lives in San Jose with her husband Danny Kischel and their dog Monte. Having grown up in the Boston area, they are loyal Patriots fans.

More Personal Conversations for 2020-2021 will be announced soon. For more information, contact Vivian Leber at