Unity.  Israel. Love.  Inspiration. Jewish Sisterhood.

Thirty Seven Chicagoland Jewish Moms Participate in an Israel Trip of a Lifetime.


This July, The Lois & Wilfred Lefkovich Chicago Torah Network (CTN) brought a group of women to Israel to experience an incredible once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, our ninth annual JWRP MOMentum Mission for Jewish moms. Led by CTN’s trip leaders Esti Deutsch, Robin Loeb, Nina Siegal and Malkie Kohn, this year’s mission was unique as it ran in partnership with NCSY and Russian Jewish Legacy Project, and altogether over 600 women from all over the world experienced Israel on this amazing journey.


This hand-picked group of Jewish moms headed to Israel for an inspiration-filled week designed to empower them to change the world through Jewish values – that will help transform themselves, their families, and the entire Jewish community.


Here our participants share some highlights and comments – but as anyone who has been to Israel knows – there are truly no words to capture it all. That is the magic of Israel…


“I went into this trip filled with nervous excitement, not knowing what to expect. What I experienced in Israel filled me up in so many ways, ways I could have never imagined.”

— CTN Trip Participant, Jen Gooze


Monday: We are Home! Beginning in Tel Aviv, we learned how the State of Israel came to be at Independence Hall… singing HaTikva… shopping at a street market… a delicious welcome dinner and crazy dancing as we shared the joy of being in Israel together!


“I knew it would be incredible – just flying into Tel Aviv I completely burst into tears on the airplane – because I was finally home…  It felt like all the women, and myself, were letting loose and all of our spirits were dancing together and our Jewish sisterhood and I think that is part of this experience – to be able to let go and enjoy every moment of it.”

— CTN Trip Participant, Erin Cooper


Tuesday: Great talk on “Your Contribution to Jewish Destiny”… A Taste of Israel Advocacy by Tal Ben Shachar… Herzliya for dinner… off to Tiberias… Awesome, inspiring, holy midnight visit to the gravesite of one of the greatest rabbis of the Talmud, “Rabbi Meir, the Master of Miracles”… How much can we do in just one day? Amazing!

“I think for me, I really hadn’t felt a pull towards Israel and after being there it truly did feel like home.  Being able to take baby steps and learning at our own pace gave me such a sense of relief. I am so interested in learning more about Judaism now.”

— CTN Trip Participant, Lori Cooper

Wednesday: Mystical Tsfat (Safed)… what a powerful talk; “The Kabbalah of Love”– life-changing!… visiting a gorgeous Mikvah and learning about its holiness and importance… shopping… and more shopping!… We witnessed an Israeli Patriot Missile intercept a Syrian Drone!! We know we are in the land of miracles!!

“Today our tour guide took us from Tiberius (my grandfather’s birthplace) to Tsfat. Just after telling us that strange and wonderful things happen in this place, she looks straight at me and uses a yiddish word that I have only ever heard my Bubby say. She said ‘Mamala, look around and take it all in.  You are home.’ I started to cry. The tour guide said that in her career as a guide, she has never said this word and said that she too was surprised. She said this is the mysticism of Tsfat. Perhaps my Bubby was telling me that she is here with me.”

— CTN Trip Participant, Stacey Panner

Thursday: It was our first day in Jerusalem, our home and our heart… Mount Herzl, honoring our sons who fell in battle protecting our country… getting to know the heroic mothers of those killed by terrorists… and The Kotel… there are really no words to describe this feeling.

“One of the more powerful moments for me was visiting The Wailing Wall for the first time. We walked towards it as a group and as we became closer I could feel the emotions from within. It literally took my breath away as the sound of prayer surrounded me. I knew from that moment on what a life-changing experience I had been blessed with. I am forever grateful to CTN for choosing me for this unbelievable opportunity.” 

— CTN Trip Participant, Randi Mueller


Friday: We walked away from our morning talks with a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the specialness of Shabbat… Spent the afternoon preparing for the Holy day in the Holy city… a beautiful, soulful Pre-Shabbat Concert… and then blessing the Shabbat candles… WE are so blessed!


“It was all so magical. Being with all these amazing women from all different backgrounds and traveling all over the country was so awesome. Seeing Israel and all these beautiful places and people through their eyes was beyond anything I’ve ever seen.  What I will always keep with me is the reminder that what unites us is far greater than what divides us.”

— CTN Trip Leader, Nina Siegal


Shabbat: What a special day… it truly feels like Shabbos! Besides our impactful morning talks, we had lunch with some great local families… an amazing rooftop musical Havdalah service to end the Holy Day, just feet away from the Holiest spot on earth!

“I feel closer to G-d and to the entire Jewish people. I feel proud to be a Jewish woman, inspired by my place in the Jewish community, motivated and empowered to make positive changes in my family and in the world.”

— CTN Trip Participant, Jen Gooze

Sunday: Masada… Camel riding… Bedouins in the desert… Dead Sea… back to Jerusalem… a beautiful dinner together and then… back to the Kotel for what for many of us was one of the most touching moments of the trip – celebrating our own Bat Mitzvahs, surrounded by newly discovered but so deeply connected sisters!

“The support I received from my soul sisters and city leaders was not only unbelievably comforting, but I truly believe that these are the women I was supposed to be there in that moment with and I could not have imagined the impact of the love and support I received.”

— CTN Trip Participant, Stacey Panner

Monday: Six Day War Museum which was just amazing… as they say, “any Jew who doesn’t believe in miracles isn’t a realist”!  It’s hard to believe it’s ending… The last few hours in Jerusalem were filled with dinner and dancing and so much love at the closing event… It’s not good-bye but l’hitraot!

Perhaps CTN City Leader Malkie Kohn summed it up best:

“I think if I had to put it into one word, it would be ‘powerful’. 600 woman, 8 days. Memories to last a lifeline. We began each day with a class based around a Jewish value. A class every morning that spoke so deeply to each and every one of us. And then, we spent each day connecting those values to our beautiful land. Showing us where we came from as a nation, how beautiful and rich our heritage is, and how strong, resilient, generous and committed we are as a people. I come back feeling so much love and connection to the sisters I traveled with and energized to keep empowering myself and all of them to transform themselves and their families.”

Although MOMentum starts with the JWRP Israel trip, it is actually a year-long, life-long “Jewish journey”, through follow-up programming provided by CTN. Programs include classes, social events, Holiday celebrations, a Shabbat Retreat, one-on-one learning and more.  For more information visit www.torahnetwork.org or email info@torahnetwork.org


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