Thread: New Women’s Group Plans Jewish Educational Options
From plans to welcome an Israeli guest speaker who champions women’s rights to an upcoming weekend getaway to discover the roots of the American Reform movement, Thread, a newly formed and independent group for Jewish women ages 30-55, is weaving its way into all denominations of the greater Jewish community in Metro Detroit.
Thread’s founders are Sherrie Singer and Amy Koenigsberg Shefman, both of West Bloomfield, and Jennifer Fishkind of Bloomfield Hills — three women who knew each other peripherally over the years but truly bonded when they enrolled together in the Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning through the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.
For an hour or so each Monday morning, they became embroiled in discussion about Jewish traditions and viewpoints that may have just been skimmed over in their Hebrew school days.
“Many women like us attended Hebrew school as kids but since then have not been involved in Jewish learning,” Singer said. “Now, as our children are getting a bit older [pre- and post-bar mitzvah age], we want to model for them and show them that learning and practicing Judaism is something you can do your entire life.”
The Thread founders know time constraints make it difficult for many women to commit to full Melton coursework. That is why they want to offer “Melton-style” programs to bring together women to introduce — or reintroduce — them to the notion of lifelong Jewish learning, Singer explained.
Thread has several events planned for the summer and fall, including a Sept. 16-18 weekend getaway to explore the Jewish historical roots of Cincinnati, Ohio, the birthplace of American Reform Judaism. The trip, which will feature historical tours of the city’s old Jewish neighborhoods, is modeled after the one organized for Temple Israel’s post-b’nai mitzvah students — with a little grown-up shopping and dining on the side. For more information and to register, go to www.threadcommunity.org.
On Dec. 8, Thread will host an evening discussion with Anat Hoffman, executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, to discuss her struggle for egalitarian Judaism in Jerusalem, namely her work with Women of the Wall as well as her concepts of tikkun olam.
The group also plans to host other informal lectures and cooking classes corresponding with Jewish holidays.
Though the founders are members of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, they stress that Thread is an organization independent of TI or any other current Jewish affiliation in town. It is designed to inspire and connect Jewish women to Jewish educational opportunities for themselves and, in turn, for their families, Singer said.
It seems they are in good company. With dozens of women in the area expressing interest either online, through social media or in informal parlor meetings the women hosted, the fledgling organization started just this spring is taking off. The women have also reached out to their friends in cities like New York and Chicago, who also expressed the need for a Jewish educational outreach group to hit this age demographic.
“When you inspire the mom, you inspire the family,” Shefman said of her Jewish learning experiences as an adult. “Usually, it is the parent who asks the child what they are learning in Hebrew school. When I was taking Melton classes, my son would ask me what I was learning in Hebrew school. I would tell him, and he would actually listen with great interest. Our kids realize we are learning Jewishly not because we have to, but because we want to.”
By Stacy Gittleman | Contributing Writer