Today was an amazing day. We had a moving and educational experience in Jerusalem. First, we stopped at a special lookout where we made a l'chayim and said the shehechianu. Then we had the opportunity to visit either Yad Vashem or The Israel Museum, as well as the Machane Yehudah Shuk and the Kotel.
Later in the evening, instead of joining the rest of the group at a program, we joined other Federation leadership and professionals, Liza Levy, Yvonne Distenfeld and Avital Ingber (who just ended their Completing the Journey Mission) and 9 women from our Partnership 2Gether city of Beit Shemesh and Mateh Yehuda for a special opportunity for dialogue and dinner. The women who joined us were from different points of the religious spectrum, from secular to Haredi.
We had what we felt to be a candid conversation with the women, and left with deeper connections and increased understanding of the Haredi women. We also gained a better understanding about our partnership with Beit Shemesh and Mateh Yehuda and its importance to them and our community.
I was struck in particular by two Haredi women. The first was raised Haredi and has remained Haredi into her adult married life. She is active in the arts and says that her husband is very supportive of her desire to express herself as an artist. It is remarkable how this woman (not mentioned by name to protect her request to remain anonymous) is comfortable with her choice to live a Haredi lifestyle. For example, she acknowledged that sometimes she rides mixed gender buses and at other times she chooses to ride women-only buses. She feels that she is not being segregated, but instead that her personal space is being respected. She was also asked about her feelings regarding the most recent events in Beit Shemesh involving Haredi men and a young girl. She shared that the men that perpetrate these acts are not accepted in the mainstream Haredi community, and that the acts are regarded with deep concern and disgust. This woman is working diligently to bring together women from all religious spectrums of Israeli society - from secular to Haredi through the best way she knows how.
The other woman that I was particularly moved by was Miri, director of the Ramat Beit Shemesh Community Center and JCC-matnas twinning program. She talked about her experience developing the now famous Beit Shemesh flash mob that went viral on YouTube. She described the experience of working with women from all religious spectrums and what a positive and empowering experience it was for the women of Beit Shemesh.
It was wonderful to connect and build new bridges of understanding during this important evening with 9 women who are changing their community and the state of Israel through their creativity, passion and hard work.
Susan Schor, Vice Chair, Women's Philanthropy
Mandy Kaiser-Blueth, Manager, Women’s Philanthropy