I’ve never once considered myself a spiritual woman. If anything, I’m a logistics maven specializing in wealth and succession planning and international projects.
My soul, I thought, was rock hard — impenetrable. But over the years, I saw some cracks begin to form and with it came a longing for something undefinable.
I grew up on a secular kibbutz in Israel and spent most of my adult life abroad after serving in the IDF. Then I moved to Switzerland and married a wonderful man who is kind and giving — but not Jewish. Over the years, as my children grew, I observed that whilst my connection to Israel remained, my ties to Judaism were beginning to slip further away.
Our social activities, networking events, and even my children’s schooling didn’t have one iota of Jewishness to them. On Christmas at school, my son would sing about Jesus.
While my sporadic connection with a few Israelis and my family kept my Hebrew alive, like kernels of sand passing through an hourglass, I saw whatever was left of my Jewishness vanish.
Then, in 2014, Operation Protective Edge happened. On my way to work, I saw posters and stickers plastered all over buildings and windows proclaiming, “Death to Israel, kill the Jews.” As a descendent of a family that suffered grave losses in the Holocaust this profoundly shocked me. Can “never again” return?
I instinctively used my fingers to remove as many of them as I could. Fingernails broke and my hands got sore, but there were still so many more ahead of me. It felt like a futile exercise, yet it motivated me to change my life.
I saw myself staring at my children’s future 10, 20 years down the line. How can I tell them to not marry a Jew when I did the same? How can I tell them to keep the mitzvot when I don’t bother to do so? How can I tell them to be proud of being Israeli when I left the country in my youth?
We needed a paradigm change in our house.
I began by enrolling my children in a Jewish school — much to their chagrin at the time. I wanted them to never be embarrassed about who they are.
When I decided to participate in Momentum’s Year-Long Journey this week — an eight-day immersive experience that enables mothers to connect to Judaism and Israel — I was still very lost.
It was on this trip, with 99 other French-speaking women, that I felt my soul begin to open up.
It opened up at the Kotel, where I saw many of these women experience Jerusalem for the first time.
It opened up when I saw those very same women choose a Jewish name for themselves atop of Mount Masada.
And it opened up when I went to a nightclub in Jerusalem and danced with a Druze woman and another secular one (who decided to forgo wearing a shirt and only had a bra on) while a Haredi man bopped his head to the music off to the side.
These are all Israeli experiences that I could have had in the 22 years I lived in this miraculous country.
But with Momentum, it was like I was seeing Israel for the very first time.
There were moments that were so pure, so emotional that the floodgates opened. I thought I would never stop crying.
Now that my soul is open, I’m receptive to exploring the many ways I can reintroduce Judaism and a love for Israel in our lives.
In many ways, Momentum reminds me of my army days, when women who otherwise would never exchange a single word with each other are suddenly thrown together in a new, all-consuming experience. I’m so grateful for this Jewish army of women — from Brussels, Paris, Marseille, Geneva and more — who I can now call my friends.
The Talmud tells us, “Whoever saves a single life saves the entire world.”
Momentum rescued my Jewish soul, and perhaps countless others who are yearning for a connection and want to be found.