By: Jill Komm
Last month, 9 extraordinary women from Buffalo joined me on the Momentum Israel Journey. This diverse group had one common factor – everyone was a mom to a Jewish child under 18 years old. The trip was jam packed with all the typical Israel tourist attractions, as well as deep learning about what it means to parent a Jewish child. We continue this week by spotlighting three more women from the trip by sharing a meaningful moment they experienced in their own words.
Meet Alyssa Strang, Kira Purizhansky, and Debbie Heller Kallus:
I had an amazing time on our Momentum trip to Israel. It was such a gift to be able to have a mental reset, focus on myself, get to know an incredible group of women, and reconnect with my Jewish and Israeli roots. One moment from our trip that really resonates with me is one that seems so “ordinary” in the daily life of an Israeli but was extraordinary to me as an American Jew. On Friday afternoon we had the opportunity to experience the hustle and bustle of the shuk in Jerusalem as everyone prepared for Shabbat. Jill and I went into a little wine shop to pick up a bottle for the couple who would be our hosts for Shabbat lunch the next day. As we left the shop, the clerk said, “Shabbat Shalom” and Jill and I returned the sentiment. We walked out of the store I had to stop on the sidewalk for a moment and take in what had just happened. I was in a place where on Friday everyone said “Shabbat Shalom” to each other as easily as (most) people in America say “Merry Christmas” during the month of December. I will never forget that simple moment of how amazing it felt to finally be Jewish in a place where I was the majority instead of the minority.
Having been to Israel in my late teens, 20s and 30s, I knew this trip would be a very different experience because of both the circumstance of the trip and my personal stage in life. But nothing prepared me for such an emotional journey.
There were so many wonderful encounters with people, places, and ideas, but my personal emotional peak was the visit to the Kotel late on Friday night after a beautiful concert, kiddush and dinner. I’ve visited the Kotel many times but never so late on a Friday night when the heat of the day and hustle and bustle of the crowds subside and you can just sit there feeling the energy of this place. The golden wall still warm from the sun, dark blue sky, pigeons sleeping between the stones, bushes growing from the cracks in the wall, it was peaceful and majestic at the same time. The essence of Shabbat was almost tangible around us. And all of us Momentum girls were there existing in absolute harmony; some praying, some talking quietly, some just sitting there enjoying the moment of peace, no rush, no judgement, no commotion. It was an absolutely beautiful moment.
Debbie Heller Hallus
The Momentum trip was an incredible experience that I find myself reliving as I tell others about where I was this summer. Never had I been part of a travel group that blended the beauty of Eretz Israel with culture and being Jewish.
The daily discussions were relatable and thought-provoking. I would also say some Shabbat inspiration has been ignited for me – and I’m looking forward to making it more central to my family’s lifestyle going forward. If that wasn’t enough, I now have 9 new friends to look forward to seeing throughout the rest of our year-long journey and the years to come.
Jill Komm is the Chief Creative Officer at Buffalo Jewish Federation and had the privilege of being the 2022 Buffalo Momentum Trip Leader.