The online support network has grown to 2,100 members since 2017, aiming to support moms and Jewish businesses.
Featured photo by Erin Kirkland
Stephanie Barr likes having a community of moms at her fingertips. The Bloomfield Hills resident, who works as an attorney, is part of Jewish Moms Of Metro Detroit, a Facebook group with more than 2,100 members who ask questions, share successes and struggles, and find camaraderie at all hours.
Started in early 2017 by Farmington Hills resident Lindsay Mall, the group has become a hub for sharing tips, swapping recommendations, promoting family-friendly activities, building businesses and more.
Barr said she’s used the group as a resource over the years, including when her son, now 3, was born and having feeding issues.
“It’s nice to have a sounding board to say, ‘Hey, has anyone had this before?’” Barr said. Whether it’s about eating, potty training, sleep or otherwise, she explained, “I like knowing that I’m not alone in whatever it is that I’m going through.”
Admins Mall, Lindsay Cox, Brooke Leiberman and Katey Wagner approve posts and admit new members, who come from a variety of Jewish backgrounds and affiliations. The four bring different perspectives to the table and are all committed to keeping lashon hara (negative talk) and politics off the table.
Mall said she first got the idea to start the group after hearing about a similar one in Atlanta. She’d seen groups on Facebook for Detroit moms, but not for Jewish moms specifically.
Having led classes in the area for babies and toddlers, Mall said she enjoyed connecting moms in person, but that this seemed like a way to reach so many more.
Moms can post under their own names or anonymously through one of the admins, Mall said. “That was the goal, to get the taboo questions, the questions that were hard to ask,” she said of topics that include divorce, therapists, schools — and menstrual cups. “That’s pretty profound for me, being able to help somebody who might not have been comfortable getting the help before.”
The fact that the dialogue is online means people are more willing to be vulnerable and frank in their discussions, she said, adding that some moms take their friendships offline and meet in person. “It’s meant to be a jumping-off point,” she noted. “It’s kind of like a dating site for moms.”
Moms can also find mentors through the group via a new Facebook feature, as another way to help one another.
The Facebook page also is a welcome option for new mothers seeking a community of like-minded moms, but who don’t necessarily look for that community today in more traditional places like synagogues.
Word Spreads Fast
Jewish Moms Of Metro Detroit, which includes anyone who defines themselves as a Jewish mom, Jewish mom-to-be or who is raising Jewish children, reaches to Ann Arbor and Flint, from communities filled with Jewish mothers to ones where people post as the only Jewish mom in town.
It also supports Jewish women-owned businesses, as moms use the page to promote services they provide in the community.In the last month, the group has seen some 13,100 posts, comments and reactions, according to Facebook statistics. And Mall said she hopes Jewish Moms Of Metro Detroit keeps on growing.
“I can’t believe how many people are touched or how useful they find it in so many different ways,” she said, adding that the group has additionally begun partnering with other organizations, such as Hazon, for tikkun olam projects. She aims to continue in her role with the group and then, when her three young children are teenagers, find moms willing to step into the spot.
Lindsay Cox remembers word spreading fast when the group began, with some 10 new members joining weekly. She offered to help, and the rest is history. She said she was amazed to see what started as a safe place for local moms to talk about parenting evolve into a network for advice, referrals and friendships.
Having a diverse group of women in conversation online means they’re able to share different ways of celebrating and participating in Jewish tradition as well, she said.
“We didn’t really celebrate Shabbat growing up, and hearing what all these families do for Shabbat and their traditions — I’m trying to incorporate a lot of that stuff within our lives,” she said.
Even having lived in Metro Detroit her whole life, Cox said she wouldn’t have likely crossed paths with most of the moms she messages with in the group. Being involved has also meant getting to know about Jewish events happening around town, well beyond Temple Israel, where her family attends. It’s been a boom for business as well. She works as a car seat technician and a photographer and, in addition to growing her client base, she’s done swaps with other moms in the group, taking pictures in exchange for getting her house organized or her dog groomed.
“A lot of people have been able to grow their businesses from it,” she said. “You don’t realize how many entrepreneurs there are in the female Jewish community in this area.”
Katey Wagner of Huntington Woods was looking for someone to carpool with to Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills when her youngest, now 4, was attending their program for 2-year-olds. Her carpool needs changed, but not before she met a woman in the group who soon became her best friend.
“Our kids are very close and so are we,” she said, adding that it’s not so common to make new friends as an adult. “I absolutely did not think I’d get a best friend out of it.”
Wagner became an admin for the group in 2017 and said she enjoys bringing moms-to-be and people from out of the area into the community.
“I love the idea of creating that connection for people,” she said, adding that some of the moms form close connections online but still wouldn’t recognize each other if they were in a room together.
The Facebook group led Brooke Leiberman of Farmington Hills to a babysitter who has been with them for two years now, a book club and a community with tons of resources to explore. “I just love that everybody’s supporting each other, even if it’s not people you know,” she said.
Her family grew up at Temple Israel, where her great-grandparents were founding members. Through her husband, they’re connected with The Shul. But not everyone these days is choosing to engage with Judaism through such classic routes, she noted.
“A lot of people my age haven’t connected the same way,” she said. “So, we need some other way to connect us because we’re looking for people of a similar stage of life to connect with Jewishly.”
Megan Topper joined the Facebook group about four years ago when she had her first child. Over the years, it’d been a place to search for doctors and get recommendations — and then she used it to find a house. It was 2018 when she saw a post by someone whose neighbor was selling their home in a West Bloomfield neighborhood she’d been interested in.
“I saw the post and figured it couldn’t hurt to check it out,” she said. “We literally sat down for coffee and bought their house.” The mom who wrote the post lives across the street.
Meanwhile, Barr, who has also found a sense of camaraderie in Jewish Moms Of Metro Detroit, said being part of the group has built her community. For example, once when she responded to a post by a woman looking for maternity clothes, she wound up with a playdate.
“She pulled into my driveway and it was late summer,” Barr recalled. “My daughter was playing in a kiddie pool on our front lawn, so her son runs out of the car and jumps into the pool.”
Years later, the families are still friends. Working full time and living in Bloomfield Hills, while the other family lives in Commerce, Barr said she’s not sure they would have met otherwise. “It’s kind of a spur-of-the-moment chance meeting, and we formed a really nice friendship,” she said.
Barr said she appreciates that Jewish Moms Of Metro Detroit is always only a tap away, but also wishes she could meet more of the moms in person.
“The same moms I talk to in the group, I’d love to be able to sit down with them and go out for coffee, but the reality is that everyone is trying to fit so much in Monday through Sunday,” she said.
“When it’s not possible to have that face-to-face interaction, this is really a great starting point — it’s convenient, it’s quick, and it’s sort of 24/7.”