By Ghila Sanders, Senior Philanthropic Officer, Atlanta Jewish Foundation
Last week, sitting under a communal tent in Israel’s Negev desert at sunset, I cheered as 15 women took on Jewish names in front of a crowd of over 200 mothers from various parts of the world experiencing a shared journey. Each one explained why they chose their specific name—some were inspired by their grandmothers; others were drawn to a meaning that felt particularly fitting at this stage of life. We celebrated, danced, sang, and shared stories over an evening that none of us will forget.
Over the course of eight days, 45 Jewish mothers from Atlanta, joined by four Israeli peers, connected with each other, committed to learning together, and engaged with a remarkable country that somehow manages to feel like home even for those visiting for the first time.
The Momentum Journey to Israel is an extraordinary undertaking dreamt up just over 14 years ago by eight women who believed that the key to a better society is through life’s #1 influencers: mothers.
Momentum often invokes the words, “Inspire a woman, you inspire a family. Inspire enough families, you inspire a community. Inspire enough communities, you can change the world.”
Since its inception, this international movement has brought over 20,000 women from 34 countries to Israel through partnerships with close to 300 local organizations. In Atlanta, the Jewish Women’s Connection, led by Julie Silverman and Batsheva Gelbtuch and supported by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, has put together an exceptional contingent of Jewish mothers—consistently the largest group to join each cohort. I was honored to have the opportunity to represent Federation as a Community Leader and immerse myself in a transformative trip that set the stage for personal and communal growth through Jewish values. And most notably, it created an invincible sisterhood.
An amazing addition to our journey was getting to know an incredibly special group of mothers from the Israeli organization Or La-mishpachot, “Light to the families,” whose 1500 members are bound by the unimaginable loss of a child in the army. Having them as part of our group was a true gift.
Together we experienced a multidimensional journey: from the enchantment of holy sites and the perpetual battles that surround them, to the complexity of spiritual and religious practices; we explored the intensity of grief, and of joy. We mourned at Yad Vashem, overwhelmed by the unfathomable history of the Holocaust, and found solace in our collective presence in the land of Israel. We visited Shalva, a most impressive center that provides services to children with disabilities and their families. And we went to Yokneam-Megiddo, our Federation’s sister city—one of the region’s most welcoming areas for refugees, which has also developed into a high-tech hub.
For me, this experience was both a personal and professional discovery: experiencing the Momentum Israel Journey and seeing its undeniable impact on this incredible group of mothers was humbling and pride-inducing all at once. I am delighted to work for a Jewish organization that invests in women, supports local efforts in Israel, and values our unbreakable bond as a people.
I am still learning the many ways in which the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta connects the dots across continents, and its effects are remarkable: after eight days of traveling together we came back stronger as a community, more knowledgeable about our initiatives and impact, and determined to stay actively engaged. Moreover, our four Israeli peers from Or La-mishpachot now have a special kinship with Jewish Atlanta and plan to visit whenever possible. I look forward to welcoming them in the coming months and continuing this year of learning with my new sisters.