Elissa Felder, an active and vibrant Providence resident, organizes two women’s trips to Israel each year. Momentum is an eight-day journey through Israel. It’s offered in July and sponsored by the the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP), whose mission is to empower women to change the world.
The idea is that they will do so through learning Jewish values, which will help them transform themselves, their families and their communities. Thousands of women from 21 countries have experienced this life-changing trip. The women pay only for airfare. The trip is funded by local organizations, the Israeli government, private philanthropy and donations from women who have gone on prior trips. Local organizations involved in funding this year’s trip included the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, the Providence community Kollel and Project Shoresh.
The second trip, the Women’s Reconnection Mission, runs in November. Elissa and her friend Dini Coopersmith organized this trip for women who don’t meet the criteria for the JWRP trip. Participants pay the entire cost of this trip.
How did you get involved with the JWRP trips and why did you create a second trip?
The Jewish Women Renaissance Project is an organization that takes Jewish mothers to Israel for an inspiring, passionate and connecting trip. This organization was started in 2014 by a group of women, one of whom is a friend of mine. She suggested I get involved. My children were grown, and I found myself with more time. I wanted to get involved because I knew it would be a meaningful experience for local women. About 200 to 400 women from all over the world participate in the experience. The women must have children under the age of 18 who are being raised to identify as Jews. They must also live near a leader who will continue with follow-up programming after the trip.
In addition to taking women on the JWRP trip in the summer, my friend Dini Coopersmith and I (with some help from an Israeli travel coordinator who takes care of all the logistics) have created the Women’s Reconnection Mission – a trip for women who are interested in the Israeli experience but do not fit the JWRP criteria. These women represent all ages, affiliations and parts of the world. I had a sense of what a trip would look like, so I created one that was more intimate with about 25-30 participants who would grow and learn together.
This November was the second trip we have offered. The Reconnection Mission is very experiential and consists of all sorts of programming, including workshops, group discussions, visits to the Dead Sea and Tsfat, healthy cooking demonstrations and Shabbat in Jerusalem.
What are the comments you’re getting from women who have experienced these trips to Israel?
Women come back from these trips and tell me that they feel like it was the best experience of their lives and that their Jewish roots have been watered in ways they didn’t see possible.
In Israel, women are freed from the responsibilities of daily living so that they are fully able to concentrate on themselves and reflect on their lives and how they want to live them. They are empowered to reflect more on the concept of the Jewish woman and be more mindful of their roles as Jewish women. Locally, the JWRP women have become a sisterhood, and they realize they have a lot to contribute to the Jewish world around them.
How has this changed your life?
It’s given me access to leaders, teachers and wisdom outside of the Rhode Island community. I have felt empowered to step outside my comfort zone. The trip we created in November was a direct result of that.
Anything else you’d want to say?
I encourage everyone to go to Israel. There is something very powerful about seeing it for yourself – the people, the history, the land. The diversity of the Jewish people is so humbling and amazing. It’s a platform for inspiration.
For more information on the JWRP trips or the Women’s Reconnection Mission, contact Elissa Felder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PATRICIA RASKIN is president of Raskin Resources Productions Inc., an award-winning radio producer and Rhode Island business owner. She is the host of “The Patricia Raskin” show, a radio and podcast coach, and a board member of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.