On Sunday, November 4, the Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals in conjunction with Women in Kiruv, The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and North American Campus Mekarvos kicked off the 3rd annual Women in Kiruv Conference in Baltimore, MD at the Etz Chaim Center. The women, who work on behalf of organizations such as Ner Le’Elef and the Wolfson Group, arrived for inspiration, chizuk and some pampering away from the daily grind and often isolated communities they live in. They came together from all parts of the US, Canada and Israel for two days to gain inspiration, practical advice, and to see friends who they see just once a year at this unique conference.
The women were treated to world-renowned speakers addressing practical themes that often come up in their lives. Women such as Rebbetzin Feige Twerski and Rebbetzin Lori Palatnik used their years of experience to inspire the women. They spoke on topics such as how to balance their work and home lives, and how to fight burn out while being far from family and friends. The women were also addressed by Rabbi Menachem Goldberger, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Rabbi Shraga Neuberger and Rabbi Shmuel Silber who dealt with halachic and hashkafic questions that come up so often in their lives.
The women gained knowledge and techniques in areas such as parenting, time management and improving their spousal roles. Rabbi Avraham Edelstein of Ner Le’Elef came to the conference from Israel to address the women on how to answer difficult questions that often come up from their students and congregants.
But the conference was not solely to hear lectures and ask questions. The women enjoyed interactive activities on Sunday night with a choice of ceramic painting, beading or a Zumba class. These opportunities allowed the women to talk and network with others facing the same challenges as themselves, as well as to relax and enjoy the other women’s company. The conference was also
A special moment of the conference came on Sunday night, when Stacey Spigelman of LA Style Hair Salon arrived to take 46 of the women’s shaitels to wash and blow dry before their departure on Tuesday morning. As many of the women come from communities where there are no sheital machers, coming to Baltimore was an opportunity for them to pamper their often neglected, and often worn, headwear. The scent at the Etz Chaim Center on Monday when the sheitals were returned was heady, and the women were practically giddy with excitement at their freshly washed and styled wigs.
Mrs. Aliza Bulow works full time for Ner Le’Elef from her Denver, CO home and was instrumental in planning and executing the program.
“The conference was fabulous,” commented Mrs. Bulow. “Our main goal was to maximize face to face contact between the participants. Nowadays, there is so much information available digitally and via phone conferences, but we are often missing the opportunity to develop relationships. Therefore, in planning the conference, we scheduled long breaks, minimized concurrent sessions, and tried to create an environment for personal interactions.”
Mrs. Ilana Rubenstein, who teaches classes in The Village Shul in Toronto, explained why she attended the conference. “I was looking for the opportunity to be inspired, learn, and connect with other women who are trying to change the world. If one is trying to inspire others, it is important to fill one’s self.”
Participant, Mrs. Tehila Derfler, whose husband is Rav of Congregation Ahavas Torah in Eugene, Oregon, found the conference to be very worthwhile. “Sometimes I feel so isolated in Eugene, but here, I am getting lots of chizuk, meeting others like me, and getting good sources of support and follow up.”
The women departed for their homes and families throughout the United States, Canada and Israel on Tuesday inspired, uplifted and with the feeling of being better able to conquer the challenges they often encounter.