Connecting to WRJ's Pillars as a First Timer

June 14, 2024

The weekend I spent at the 2024 Fried Women’s Conference was one of the most exhilarating weekends of my life. Constantly meeting warm, friendly faces, I was welcomed into my first Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) Fried Women’s Conference with open arms. As an individual member of WRJ and as someone who came without a congregational sisterhood, without knowing many people at the conference, and without much knowledge of WRJ events, I never felt out of place.

The conference, held in hot and humid, downtown New Orleans, began with a traditional “second line” parade led by an electric brass band that invited everyone to dance and march along. Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch, WRJ Executive Director, welcomed everyone to New Orleans - reminding us that “gratitude rejoices with her sister joy and is always ready to light a candle and have a party” (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov), setting the tone for the entire weekend to one of happiness for being together and celebrating in this way.

We were also reminded by Rabbi Hirsch of WRJ’s three pillars: sisterhood, spirituality, and social justice. These pillars, which speak to me as a young Jewish woman passionate about tikkun olam (repairing the world), were fulfilled by the conference in each of these ways:  

Sisterhood: As I previously mentioned, everyone at the conference was extremely welcoming. However, it was more than that - people were genuinely excited to embrace someone new in their midst. I had the opportunity to meet a few of the past WRJ Presidents where I learned the story of the Torat Nashim (WRJ Torah), the first Torah commissioned by women. They shared with me the opportunity they had to write Hebrew letters into that Torah with the scribe, having never been able to read from a Torah much less write one when they were girls. This Torat Nashim was used at the Shabbat morning service over twenty years after its creation and this Torah, this legacy, fully embodies for me what sisterhood is about. It's about loving and caring so deeply for others, across the generations, so much that we proactively ensure our interests will be preserved into the future.

Spirituality: It is hard to put into words the meaningful connection that I felt to my Jewish faith throughout the conference. I had been told that the Shabbat services were the best part of the conference. Services did not disappoint. A highlight of my experience was singing along with the WRJ choir - the stunning Elana Arian led us through songs that I grew up with, as well as new melodies that I still can’t get out of my head! I also delighted in linking arms and dancing with the hundreds of women present to Miriam’s Song, my favorite Jewish song since I forced everyone to sing it at my Bat Mitzvah service.

Social Justice: The weekend was steeped in calls to action to repair the world. To continue to invest in our Jewish leaders of tomorrow through the YES Fund, to fight back against the ever-increasing hurdles facing access to reproductive healthcare, and to push for a more liberal, inclusive, progressive approach to Jewish practice in Israel and beyond. A taping of the Just for This podcast was held regarding “Modern Loss” where I was reminded of social justice as an interpersonal issue where we owe it to ourselves and those closest to us to be patient, inquisitive, and forgiving. Through the variety of sessions, one of which I had the honor of being a panelist on, I became informed, challenged, and inspired.  

Rabbi Hirsch also asked us, “what if we say yes?” What if we say “yes” to leadership? Say “yes” to sisterhood? By being in the room together, all of us present deemed to take on those challenges. We are further called to invite others into leadership and to elevate their voices.  

I am taking away from this experience a rejuvenated passion for WRJ’s mission, and specifically for the organization’s three pillars. As a new member of the WRJ North American Board, I am proud to be part of an organization that so seamlessly blends the tenets of sisterhood, spirituality, and social justice and continues to empower women. I’m so glad I said yes to WRJ and said yes to attending my first Fried Women’s Conference! 

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