July 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Bergen JWRP Heads for Israel Again!

On October 20, 19 Bergen County women will be gathered at Newark airport filled with trepidation and excitement. They are going to take a special trip with The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP), which was established in 2008. Their mission is to empower women to change the world through Jewish values that transform women, their families and communities.

The flagship program, T.A.G. (Transform and Grow) Trips to Israel, offers women a special gift: a highly-subsidized nine day action-packed trip to Israel. Women travel as a group, grow as a group, and continue their journey back to their communities as sisters, having shared an incredible experience together. They share a common vision of self-growth and personal development to reach their potential as Jewish women, wives, and mothers. To date, JWRP has brought 3,000 women to Israel from 60 cities and 12 countries.

The Bergen County group will join 200 women who are traveling with JWRP. For many, it is their first trip to Israel. Some have not been there since college. The majority are married with children under the age of 18. The hope is that they come back so excited and passionate about what they have experienced that they will inspire their families and communities to be more active in many aspects of Judaism. The missions to Israel are for mothers with little formal Jewish educational background. The women travel together, grow together and then journey back home to share their newly found Jewish connections with their family, friends and community.

This is the third group of Bergen JWRP ladies going to Israel. Each group is special and forms a dynamic relationship among themselves as well as the greater group of Bergen women. They become a sisterhood, both locally and nationally, bonding with JWRP sisters everywhere.

The women land in Israel on Monday morning and hit the ground running. From Tiberias and dancing on the Kinneret to a tour of Tsfat, they visit three of the four holiest sites in Israel. Then it’s off to Jerusalem for a visit to the Kotel, including the Kotel Tunnel Tour, a visit Yad Vashem, and then on to one of many not-for-profit organizations, including Yad L’Kashish, One Family Fund and Shalva. The journey includes a visit to an army base where they mingle with soldiers and learn about the defense of Israel and the existential threats it faces.

A trip to Israel would not be complete without a visit to Masada and onwards to the Dead Sea for a dip in the salty water. They end the day at Avraham’s Tent with a camel ride and delicious gourmet meal in a wide open tent with a breathtaking view of the setting sun over the Judean hills.

The women also learn about Jewish history, Shabbat, challah baking, friendship, mikveh, tzedakah, the birth of Israel, the Holocaust and so much more. The women are engaged intellectually, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The life-transforming trip ends with a visit to Kever Rachel where they bid Shalom, L’hitraot to Momma Rachel. A delicious farewell banquet heralds the end of the trip before they had back to Ben-Gurion airport for their trip home.

The key to maintaining the inspiration achieved in Israel is through JWRP’s local follow up. Bergen JWRP activities continue long after the trip is over. Bergen JWRP hosts a weekly challah baking session, where they gather to recite the bracha, say a special prayer, hear some words of Torah and just mingle. The group also meets regularly every Sunday morning at the Teaneck General Store. Julie Farkas, coordinator of Bergen JWRP, offers a weekly class on Jewish topics and holidays which infuse the week with a piece of Torah. The women are also introduced to a variety of guest lecturers.

Additionally, the women gather for holiday get-togethers, most recently for Sukkot, as well as Chanukah, Purim, Pesach, Shavout and a summer barbecue. They meet for coffee or dinner and host Shabbat meals. Additionally, there is a newly-launched, innovative one-on-one learning program pairing JWRP participants with local women in the greater Teaneck area for weekly “chavrutot” for learning.

For many, JWRP women, Israel is their first encounter with a traditional Shabbat where they agree to “disconnect” from all electronic devices for a full weekend.  Some women return and introduce “Shabbat dinner” to their homes, with challah, candle lighting and kosher food. Some put up mezuzzas. Still others choose to “dunk,” as one JWRP excitedly posted on her Facebook page after visiting the mikveh for the first time. Each woman connects with something else. One JWRP lady took the seriousness of gossiping to heart and became the “gossip monitor,” as she engagingly put it, of her group of friends. Still others choose to enroll their children in Jewish after-school programs, encourage their older teens to go on Birthright, and strive to create more meaningful Jewish holiday experiences for their families.

The Bergen JWRP trip provides scholarships for those women who want to connect with their heritage and Israel, but find it financially challenging. To this end, Bergen JWRP hosts an annual fundraising event to raise the necessary funds to bring local women to Israel.  For more information on making a contribution or to find out about the December JWRP 2014 trip, please contact Julie Farkas at

By Esther Friedman, Elana Kaplan, Dena Levie, Julie Farkas, City Leaders, JWRP Bergen

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