By Ellen Tillem
The year 2012 was without doubt the darkest year of my life. It was also the year that JWRP (now Momentum) and JInspire came knocking at my door (Hashgachah Pratis for sure). It was the beginning of an immersion into shared experiences through a trip to Israel followed by local programming and then my first JInspire Body and Soul shabbaton. Throughout the ensuing years, my husband encouraged my participation and accompanied me on occasion to some of my local JInspire Queens group events never wanting to become too involved himself.
Fast forward to 2019 and the renovation of our home. Suddenly the idea of a weekend in a dust free environment and food that was not prepared in a toaster oven or microwave seemed very inviting. I was not sure how this was going to unfold but off we went to the JInspire Body and Soul Retreat leaving workmen toiling away in our house.
When we arrived at the hotel, one after another woman who I had met over the years came up to say hello and chat. It took us a little while to make it to the registration table. My husband commented that he was superfluous to this adventure. I assured him that he was not, but I did have my doubts about how this weekend was going to unfold. On Erev Shabbat when I peeked at the men’s side of the hall prior to the start of Kabbalat Shabbat services, I was a heartbroken to see my husband sitting alone in a corner. Was he correct in thinking he was going to spend this weekend on his own in a sea of people? I mentioned this to one of my friends and she immediately sent her husband over to draw mine in. From there, the transformation began.
We attended various lectures together, discussed how what we heard did and didn’t have relevance to us and he began to form relationships with some of the men. The biggest surprise is what he told me after Havdallah. He was sitting next to a Chasidic fellow who helped him to say the prayers, shared his spices with my husband and simply drew him in. To my surprise, he even DANCED after Havdallah. All of this was a whole new experience for him. Slowly he saw what I had been saying all along. NO ONE is trying to make you into someone you are not. They are trying to share with you a bit of what binds us all together as a Jewish people.
On our drive home, we discussed the weekend and how he felt about it. He told me that he enjoyed himself, learned some new things and might even consider going again next year!