Let’s Schmooze!
Like Me, Pretty Please!
Subscribe to the Tribe!

Enter your e-mail address to get Mishegas of Motherhood in your Inbox:


JWRP Trip To Israel: What I Learned

JWRP STL group photo

St. Louis “Soul Sisters” on top of the Aish HaTorah building overlooking the Old City in Jerusalem.


My heart and my head are full, and it’s not from all the hummus and falafel that I ate while I was in Israel last week. It’s from all the sights, sounds, tastes, and energy that I indulged in while I was on my trip with 12 amazing St. Louis moms through the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP). We all had different purposes for being there, and we all came home feeling inspired and connected, not only to each other but our Jewish homeland and ancestors. It’s not like I walked off the plane at St. Louis Lambert Airport wearing a head scarf because I suddenly became more religious and modest (although I certainly understand and admire the practice of Tzniut much better), but I did change, at least internally.

As a writer, I carried my pad of paper with me everywhere and took meticulous notes about everything I was experiencing, including missing our flight to Israel, eating salmon and sorbet at Deck’s, learning about the “Kabbalah of Love” from Lori, kayaking on the Jordan River, getting locked in the mikveh bathroom in Tzfat, tucking prayers inside the Western Wall, shopping for hamsa necklaces, meeting Yossi and the children at Shalva, feeling hollow and sorrowful for all the suffering depicted at Yad Vashem, (I scribbled thoughts in the dark on the back of my nametag because I left my notebook on the bus), and learning to braid challah into the shape of a flower.

Jordan River rafting

Kayaking on the Jordan River.



Challah tray

We made our own challah shapes, including one with Gummy Bearsl

When Shabbat finally came around, and we lit a room full of candles, and sang and danced to Rockin Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser and more singing at the Kotel and on and on…it was my signal to stop working, stop writing, and be in the moment for the next 26 hours.

Shabbat group with candles

Celebrating my first Shabbat in Israel with the St. Louis moms.

I had to put the notebook away, and it was killing me even though I was immersed in all the activity and enjoying it all. The next morning, Rabbi Yaakov knew this would be a challenge for us to not document his wisdom, so he made it easy and taught us BLING, more about that in my next blog.

Later that evening at Havdala at the Claman’s, I sat across from an Israeli soldier who sat with an M4 in his lap and munched on a carrot. I desperately wanted to write a few observations about the gorgeous setting, but I didn’t have a piece of paper with me, not even a gum wrapper. Desperate to remember the discussion about the Thank Israeli Soldiers program, I admit that I borrowed a pen from a friend sitting next to me and jotted down a few key words on a crumbled paper napkin. It was night time, I couldn’t even see what I was writing, and needless to say, I couldn’t read a letter when I got back to the hotel and flattened the burgundy napkin on my desk.

My point it, I was reminded that Shabbat is a time to “disconnect to connect.” Be in the moment. Shabbat is a gift from God to step off the spinning wheel that is our daily life, and take a break, reflect and refuel ourselves.

After Shabbat I was able to start writing again, and I remember having a fresh piece of blank paper to take notes about Sgt. Benjamin Anthony’s “Reflections of a Frontline IDF Soldier.” His loud, booming voice commanded my attention from the very start, every word he spoke was important as if my life depended on it. When he told the story about his older brother being savagely beaten in front of his eyes by a gang of thugs where he grew up in England, I didn’t even realize that I had stopped writing. Instead, my notebook fell to the floor and I was mesmerized by his message. And that is, the enemy of the Jewish people is not the terrorists, the Muslim, the Arabs, the suicide bombers. The trained Israeli Army has them covered. The real threat to the future of the Jewish people is us, sadly. It’s ignorance, it’s apathy, it’s not passing down our Jewish heritage and traditions to our children. It’s ignoring the headlines in the news about Israel because we don’t care, we don’t understand. This is a travesty. The entire time Benjamin spoke, I didn’t write a single word. And yet I got his powerful message loud and clear, which included how to bring his “Thanks Israeli Soldiers” program into the high schools and college campuses across the country so that young people would be more educated about the plight of Israel and the misconceptions of the Israeli soldiers.


Young Israeli soldiers carry these guns 24-7, like our kids do their iPhones.

Young Israeli soldiers carry these guns 24-7, like our kids do their iPhones.

So, fast forward…

Last Friday was my first Shabbat at home, and even though I didnt make a big brisket dinner or even roll my own challah dough this time (although I look forward to doing so with my daughter next Friday), it’s the little steps that count. When it comes to celebrating Shabbat, it’s not all or nothing. So I will light my new funky purple candles that I bought in Ben Yehuda and together we will say the blessing.

I’m grateful to Lori and all the teachers who I learned from on my JWRP mission. I look forward to staying in touch with you and continuing my Jewish journey.

Lori and Ellie

In Tsfat with Lori Palatnik, the founder of JWRP.

This was my purpose to go on this trip, to continue to express myself through my writing, only go a little deeper because I’m ready. As I held my white Siddur on the Western Wall, I asked Hashem to use me as a vessel so that I can do my part to help the Jewish people. How do we change the world? One person at a time, one family at a time, one community at a time. I get it now. Moms are the “secret weapon” to changing the world,  preserving the Jewish people, and now we have a support system through JWRP to accomplish just that.

I plan to further explore the topics that I learned about on my trip and will share them with you right here. If you’ve been on a JWRP mission, I’d love to know how your life has changed since then.

Let’s stay connected!