One of the last “in-person” things I did in 2020 was run the annual hamantaschen baking event at Garden City Jewish Center (GCJC) with my mom. Together, we’ve been running this class for nearly ten years. We play to each other’s strengths: she, the welcome, smiling face of a teacher who goes around helping the new folks; me, the logistics person who makes sure we have the supplies set out efficiently, the ovens timed, and the trays rotated properly. I think we make a pretty good pair, and we continue to inspire each other through the work that we do on behalf of Reform Jewish women everywhere. We are but two women in the larger network that keeps WRJ going, and we truly are, l’dor v’dor: stronger together.
Back when I was 11 years old, my family joined the GCJC. I became a part of the Hebrew school and my mom immediately got involved in the sisterhood. She had participated in sisterhood before, but now she was part of a smaller, close-knit group of women who needed active and regular involvement to sustain the organization.
A few years after my bat mitzvah, my mom – who didn’t have the opportunity as a 13-year-old to do so – had her adult bat mitzvah. Around that time, she also served as sisterhood co-president and then president. I appreciated my mom’s devotion to the organization and how she is always willing to step up for the good of the community.
In 2012, I was job searching and feeling at a bit of a crossroads. I studied politics and international affairs in college but spent a lot of my time planning and running programs with the campus event planning organization. I saw a posting for the “Meetings & Programs Manager” job at WRJ. It sounded like a great opportunity to strengthen my Reform Jewish roots and work in an environment that strengthens women’s voices worldwide.
Working at WRJ was my first 'real' job, and there was so much to learn! Plans were underway for the Centennial Celebration in 2013, and I hit the ground running. I worked on the newly named Fried Women’s Conference as well as other Centennial projects. While I often felt overwhelmed by how much there was to do, my work gave me insight into the work that WRJ does and inspired me to power through. My mom learned more about WRJ and wanted to be supportive and involved. She signed up to be a WRJ Centennial Ambassador and shared information with the GCJC sisterhood women about WRJ and all that it does, from the collective fundraising efforts to support grants via WRJ’s YES Fund to leadership training and empowerment for women. All this time, I was finding my voice as a young Jewish professional at WRJ.
In almost nine years at WRJ, I have organized and attended dozens of conferences, meetings, and other special events. There is always a time during an event when I witness an incoming sisterhood president have an 'aha!' leadership moment or take active stances in social justice issues that shape the lives of my peers and the women who will come after me. In these moments, I am truly inspired by the collective efforts of the WRJ network and realize why these women – we – do what we do. It’s not until you see this firsthand that it really sinks in how much WRJ has contributed to the lives of Reform Jews worldwide and Reform Jewish women as well, in its 100+ years. As some WRJ leaders have said, it’s “the magic that happens when Reform Jewish women gather together.” It might have sounded like a cliché to me back in 2012, but having witnessed it personally for some time, I know it’s true.
I hope you will consider a gift to WRJ: Today & Tomorrow in honor of the generations that have built WRJ and the generations that will continue to grow as a result of WRJ's mission."
Amanda Feldman is the Manager of Meetings & Conventions at Women of Reform Judaism. A Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), she is also a member of the Garden City Jewish Center in Garden City, NY.
Please enjoy today's story below as part of our end-of-year campaign WRJ: Today & Tomorrow. We hope these stories inspire you to see how much joy you have brought to WRJ and encourage you to invest in WRJ today for tomorrow!