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Countdown to Israel Trip Begins

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In less than one week, I will embark on a journey of my lifetime. As one of 10 St. Louis moms selected to visit Israel with the T.A.G. (Transform and Grow) Mission sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and coordinated through Aish HaTorah of Greater St. Louis, I’m so excited to see, taste, and feel the holy land for the first time. We will join other moms from all over the world who are coming together to have an uninhibited wonderful adventure and focus on ourselves for a change, without the kids. Most importantly, we will discover  what it truly means to be a Jew so that when we return home, after a nine-day, jam-packed adventure that includes everything from kayaking on the Jordan River and floating in Dead Sea to riding a camel and climbing the majestic Masada at dawn, we will be inspired to make a change. Even though that change will be different for all of us, we all want the same thing, to continue learning about Judaism and share our joy and experiences with our family and children.

group at Peggy's

Our St. Louis group wearing red hats so we don’t lose each other!

Thanks to our group leaders Chana Greenwald and Peggy Umansky, who know Israel like the back of their hand, (Chana lived in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for many years, and this is Peggy’s fifth visit to Israel), we know exactly how to prepare ourselves, mentally, physically, spiritually. The neat thing is that some of us already know each other, either as friends or acquaintances, while others have met for the first time. But after our trip, we will go through a transformation to become like sisters. In fact, Ellen made us these beautiful chan luu bracelets so that “we are connected already.”


The handmade red chan luu bracelets symbolize unity and safe travels.

For me, the hardest part is knowing what to pack in my suitcase, since I have a tendency to bring too much. So, I’ve narrowed down my checklist to include only the essentials, such as my passport, sunhat, phone, swimsuit, casual summer clothes, good walking shoes, toiletries, snacks, notebook/pen, beach towel, long skirt for Shabbat, pashmina, Evian facial mist, compression socks, and meds so that I don’t lose it on the 10-plus hour plane ride from New York to Tel Aviv. (Thanks for the ideas, ladies)!

Most importantly, what I need to remember to pack is an open heart and open mind so that I can soak it all in and bring it home with me. And that weighs nothing in my over-sized duffel bag.