More than 125 women from across the Edison/Highland Park Jewish community attended the Women’s Rosh Chodesh inaugural event that took place on Motzei Shabbat, November 6, in the social hall of Congregation Ohr Torah in Edison.
Organized by Marla Rottenstreich, Sara Scott, Vickie Krief and Goldie Grossman, the new Women’s Rosh Chodesh group hopes to reach out to the entire community and provide an opportunity for learned Jewish women to approach each holiday and month with something beyond the logistics of holiday and family work. As was mentioned in the welcome, “There should be more to Motzei Shabbat than laundry and washing dishes.”
Krief opened the presentation with a reminder that Rosh Chodesh became a women’s holiday in appreciation for their outpouring of faith when they refused to surrender their jewelry for the creation of the Golden Calf. Their sense of community continues in the “multidimensional and diverse community” that brought so many women from a variety of local synagogues out of their homes on a Saturday night.
Krief introduced the speaker, Jaclyn Sova, who began her presentation by diving into the idea that it’s not good to be alone. After all the isolations due to COVID, we can certainly appreciate the truth in that statement. Why would Hashem make Adam alone, and then say it is not good to be alone? Isn’t everything Hashem does correct?
Yet there are times it is better to “be alone.” When among a group of people who are not doing the proper things, it is better to “be alone” and not submit to peer pressure. And there are times when we may feel alone, despite being in the midst of a crowd of people. How welcome it is when someone comes over and introduces themselves and you feel less alone and more a part of something.
Our emotions and experiences can make us feel that we are the only person going through something, but being part of a community allows us to feel we belong to something greater. Yet every person is unique and has something to contribute to this world.
Sova gave the comparison of a car and all the components. The nicest, largest or most visible pieces are obviously important. But even the smallest or least visible pieces serve a purpose, as the car would not operate if a tiny piece were missing. The same analogy works with people; we may think we are unimportant, but each person is integral to the community. As Rav Hirsh said, it isn’t important that each person or part be good—all the people and parts working together are what makes the object or community good.
Sova shared another story in which an older man decided to begin to learn Gemara in the remaining months of his life. He was saddened that his lack of yeshiva education made it so difficult. Why so much time to have only learned three pages? Would it be better to give up his study and spend the time elsewhere? His rebbe quoted a story of the famous music conductor Arturo Tuscanini, who said that a radio performance by an orchestra was horrible because it was missing one of the many violins that the piece required. The audience might never have noticed the difference, but someone very familiar with the piece would notice the omission and would rue every missing note. So too, Hashem, the master of the universe, would notice if the student stopped studying—even if it escaped the notice of others.
Following a group recitation of Psalm 121 for ill members of the community, Rottenstreich introduced an ice-breaker of “Human Bingo” to help the women get to know one another and begin conversations and friendships.
Yana Shapiro, new to Highland Park, said she felt it would be a good way to meet people. She brought her daughter, Maya, who was visiting from Manhattan. Ariella Gluck came to socialize with people other than her immediate family.
Miriam Dobin had heard the speaker’s presentation about Chanukah (over Shabbat, in a scholar-in-residence program in the shul) and enjoyed it so much she decided to come back and bring her friend and neighbor, Marilyn Berger. Berger noted that she had planned to stay in, but couldn’t refuse Miriam’s offer to drive her to the event.
This Rosh Chodesh event will become a monthly gathering, jointly sponsored by all Edison/Highland Park shuls, by and for women in the community to unite, connect, learn and grow.