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The cohort from Western Massachusetts gathers at Momentum’s opening night ceremony in Tel Aviv in May. Photo: Aviram Valdman

Western Massachusetts women visit Israel; connect with their roots

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Western Massachusetts women visit Israel; connect with their roots

The cohort from Western Massachusetts gathers at Momentum’s opening night ceremony in Tel Aviv in May. Photo: Aviram Valdman

TEL AVIV — Twelve Jewish mothers from Western Massachusetts were among 350 women in Israel last week on an eight-day trip organized by Momentum, a global movement that helps women deeply connect to their Jewish values and to the State of Israel.

Momentum participants’ jam-packed itinerary ran the gamut from must-see sites in Israel to lectures from figures in the country. Experiences included a visit to the Ethiopian Heritage Center, where they heard from other influential Israeli women like Torah educator Rachelle Fraenkel, the mother of one of the three boys who were kidnapped by Hamas in 2014; a tour of the mystical city of Tzfat; dancing at the Western Wall; floating in the Dead Sea; and hiking up Masada.

On the trip, the participants met with Ukrainian and Russian alumni of Momentum who recently fled the war and made Aliyah (immigration to Israel). There, they heard the harrowing stories of the women’s journeys and offered a supportive community.

In her first visit to Israel, Heather Deirdre from Easthampton said, “The opportunity [to visit Israel] happened to pop up. I’m here to come home and to explore Israel and find further, deeper, spirituality, to heal a part of my soul and to foster relationships with eleven other moms. It’s an amazing opportunity to be in a place that is like no other.”

Momentum prides itself on partnering with a wide-ranging array of national, local and international organizations who helped make the trip possible. In the case of the Western Massachusetts delegation, Momentum worked closely with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, a philanthropic organization that invests in projects that provide a strong return on investment for the Jewish community.

In addition to the Western Mass­achusetts cohort, trip participants for May 2022 included women from across the United States, Canada, France, Spain, and South Africa. Momentum’s latest trip took place in three languages – English, Spanish, and French. The women experienced Israel within the framework of Momentum’s four central goals: connecting to Jewish values, engaging with Israel, taking action, and fostering unity without uniformity.

This is the first time the organization has been able to fully tap into the global Jewish community since the pandemic began in 2020. In 2021, Momentum was already among the first organizations to bring trip participants from around the world into Israel. This year, Momentum’s signature trip returned to its pre-pandemic attendance level, with several more trips slated for the rest of the year.

Founding Director Lori Palatnik said, “Momentum is thrilled with the explosion of travel and the desire for Jews in the Diaspora to come to Israel. When the pandemic put a stop to travel to Israel, it gave people an even greater desire to do so. The women who have landed last week represent the tens of thousands who can’t wait to get here and we are honored to work with the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs to welcome them and give them an experience of a lifetime.”

“Momentum is prepared to meet this bursting demand for meaningful travel, and we are looking to significantly expand our numbers and offerings moving forward,” she added.
Since Momentum was founded in 2009, the movement has brought participants from 34 countries and nearly 300 partner organizations to Israel. This flagship Israel program is a joint partnership between Momentum and Israel’s Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.

The organization was established when Palatnik noticed that communities were struggling to connect women with Jewish values and Israel, and together with eight women from the DC area developed the concept of a subsidized trip to Israel for Jewish mothers as a transformative investment in the Jewish family.

“In many households, the mother sets the tone for how much a family will incorporate Jewish life and attachment to Israel into their homes,” Palatnik said. “In many ways, she is the figurehead and through her, we can begin to see generational change in terms of being more connected, inspired, and engaged with one’s heritage and connection to Israel.”

As such, Momentum aims to empower women to change the world through Jewish values and connections to Israel that transform their families, and communities.

Formerly the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, Momentum has seen success in its mission of inspiring women to not only discover but become enchanted with Israel. According to their annual report, within three months after their trip, approximately 91% agree that Momentum enabled them to bring more meaning to their Jewish practice; 83% report feeling extremely connected to Israel and 52% talk about Israel with their family on a weekly basis.

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