Much More Than Meets the Eye

By: Chanie Mandel

When Devorah Buxbaum spent 15 minutes encouraging me to keep putting one step in front of the other at the ropes course (I am afraid of heights. Well, I was afraid of heights…), I heeded her words and managed to finish the challenge. The thing is, she asked me afterwards why I had done it to begin with if I was so afraid. So, I began to think about it, and I realized that the trips with Project Inspire all have one thing in common.  They push me to do things I never thought I could do.  They broaden my horizons.

I am not just talking about parasailing and axe throwing and dangling from a rope, although these seemingly physical challenges have an emotional component as well.  Besides these activities, there is so much else that these trips have taught me about myself.

I see now that I can meet someone, learn with them twice, and then keep up the relationship afterwards (thanks Raya!).

I can hear a beautiful song about a woman lighting Shabbos candles, alone in her apartment, and I can be transported to Budapest, Hungary where my childless aunt did that very thing every Friday.

I can sing with a group of women who spontaneously want to daven Hallel aloud. I can watch the tears of those who had never heard these tunes, and Hallel can take on a whole different dimension from this experience. Or, conversely, I can break into song and sing old show tunes until 1 am, with a group of women I barely know, and make a total fool of myself but feel the ice breaking into shards at my feet.

There are so many moments.  Moments I cherish.  Moments that I felt my soul open wide to everything that was being offered.  Beautiful speakers.  Slovie Yungreis Wolff, Devorah Buxbaum, Rachel Burg and so many others.  No egos here, even though these women are superstars in their respective communities. There was only love and encouragement exuding from them towards every individual listening.  It was an honor to be in their presence.

So, thank you Project Inspire.  Thank you, Rabbi Friedman, Rabbi Giniger and all their helpers, who take upon themselves the planning and logistics.  We don’t take for granted that things run smoothly and on time and that you always have something new and exciting to offer us. We really appreciate it.

May our next trip together be in a rebuilt Jerusalem.  I can’t wait!!!!!