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JWRP St. Louis

You’re Invited To A Bracha Party!

Gavna tent for dinner

Bracha parties bring friends and food together.

With Hanukkah around the corner, now is the perfect time for a gift exchange, especially when the presents are filled with love, spirituality, and delicious snacks and drinks. The upcoming Bracha party—which is like a prayer gift exchange– is all about sharing blessings over special foods with our “sisters” who are part of the St. Louis Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) and Jewish Women’s Society (JWS) family.

A Bracha is a blessing that is recited at specific times during services and rituals, and this is how a Bracha or Amen party works:

First, women sit around a big table filled with a delicious spread that fits into five symbolic food groups. Stop right there. You had me at women and food.
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“You Had Me At Lori.”

Ellie, Lori & Mimi at JWRP dessert reception at the home of Marilyn & Sam Fox.

Ellie, Lori & Mimi at JWRP dessert reception at the home of Marilyn & Sam Fox.

When Mimi Pultman called me on the phone back in August to ask me to co-chair the Lori Palatnik event with her, I was on my way to meet my “St Louis Soul Sisters” for dinner at Mediterranean Grill. We like to pretend we’re eating falafel in the Old City.

Anyway, Mimi rattled off a list of reasons why I should consider taking on this important role, even though I was already feeling overwhelmed with several projects that consumed my time. Her rationale:

1. Lori’s coming in town, it’ll be fun!

2. We are both experienced event planners. We can do this.

3. We have connections in the St. Louis Jewish community.

4. We will appoint committees and sub-committees and delegate responsibiities.

5. We have templates for advertisements and invitations, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

6. We’ll put together a killer action plan and timeline.

7. Then something about minimal amount of  time  and meetings (yeah, right).

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JWRP Trip to Israel: The Mitzvah of Making Challah

ellie and sari with challahs

Sari & I make our own challahs.

One of the MANY highlights of my recent JWRP experience was celebrating my first Shabbat in Israel. The best part—making challah in the same room, at the same time, with 200 other wannabe balaboostas who dispel the theory that too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the soup. I felt like I was on the set of Food Network as I watched Rebbetzin Raizy work her magic on the big screen and effortlessly twist the soft dough into shapes of a dove, butterfly, six-strand loaf, napkin rings, a linked loop round challah, and other creations that would make Martha Stuart envious and want to convert.

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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.

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