These area Jewish women’s groups, along with traditional synagogue Sisterhoods, are definitely making a difference.
At the backbone of Metro Detroit’s Jewish community are a variety of women’s groups. They practice philanthropy, community service and building a stronger Jewish culture, while giving women an opportunity to network, connect and create lasting friendships.
Some women’s groups advocate for social justice, while others focus on giving back to those in need. Regardless of the mission, the groups have one thing in common: They’re committed to making Jewish Metro Detroit a better place, both now and in the future.
No matter their age or their interests, women can find other like-minded women to spend time with, volunteer with, network with — or simply to build lasting friendships based on shared pursuits and values.
These area Jewish women’s groups, along with traditional synagogue Sisterhoods, are definitely making a difference.
National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan (NCJW | MI)
Since 1893, the National Council of Jewish Women has, quite simply, been inspired by Jewish values. As the oldest Jewish women’s grassroots organization in the country, the group is composed of volunteers and advocates, with chapters nationwide. It has a total of 180,000 members, including a Michigan chapter for Jewish women in the area.
Throughout their mission, NCJW volunteers and advocates aim to turn progressive ideals into action by working both in the United States and Israel. They strive for social justice and spearhead efforts to improve the quality of life for women, children and families. At the forefront of that mission is a goal to safeguard individual rights and freedoms.
Even those who don’t want to be directly involved in advocacy can still participate in fun and interactive activities like book clubs, visits to local museums and concerts, and lunch-and-learn sessions, among others.
“We invite the community to join our efforts,” says Amy Cutler, NCJW | MI president. “There are many volunteer opportunities based on the interest of the volunteer.”
These include participating in a planning committee, volunteering at a community service project, working with the group’s Advocacy and Elections Committee or attending one of many community programs put on by the organization.
“By becoming involved with NCJW | MI, you can share your own expertise, learn a new skill, make a new friend or reunite with an old acquaintance,” Cutler says, “all while making a difference in our community.”
To learn more about NCJW | MI, visit ncjwmi.org.
Hadassah Greater Detroit
Hadassah is the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, a volunteer organization with more than 300,000 members in the United States. The Michigan chapter, Hadassah Greater Detroit, includes 8,400 members in Metro Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Toledo and even greater Pittsburgh and Cleveland.
Organized as a sisterhood of women, Hadassah members share a passion and commitment to Israel. They advocate for women’s rights, support a world-renowned hospital and research community in Israel, and practice the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam or “repairing the world.”
Hadassah also offers professional networks, including a Nurse and Allied Health Professionals Council and an Attorney and Judges Council. Each year, the organization hosts an annual meeting with a celebrity guest speaker, boutiques and a luncheon, plus a large rummage sale in November.
In addition, Hadassah’s programming also includes informative activities, book clubs, discussion groups and Zionism programs. That’s why at Hadassah Greater Detroit, there’s something for everyone, says President Mandy Garver.
“Whatever your passion — Israel, community service, education, advocacy or just hanging with like-minded women who are committed, empowered and who make a difference in the world, Hadassah is for you,” she explains. “We’re the women who do.”
To learn more about Hadassah Greater Detroit, visit hadassah.org/region/greater-detroit.
Partners Detroit is a local Jewish organization that aims to help Jewish Metro Detroiters connect to their heritage. Through educational programs and community-wide service projects, Partners Detroit has a variety of offerings for different needs and interests.
Its Women’s Division, for example, is geared toward enriching the lives of Jewish women in different ages and stages. This section of the organization offers educational opportunities, trips and events, which include everything from spa days to challah baking to lunch-and-learn events.
The goal is to strengthen Jewish identity, enhance experiences with Judaism, and share timeless wisdom and values with the next generation of Jewish women.
To learn more about Partners Detroit’s Women’s Division, visit partnersdetroit.org/m4m-division.
Bais Chabad Torah Center Jewish Women’s Circle
West Bloomfield’s Bais Chabad Torah Center offers a place for the Jewish community at all levels of religious observance to study and learn about Judaism. The Center’s Jewish Women’s Circle is a group designed specifically for women to connect and meet other like-minded women.
Throughout the year, the Jewish Women’s Circle hosts monthly events and weekly classes, like sushi, wine and Torah sessions, “pink” Shabbats honoring women’s health and awareness, book clubs and floral-making activities, among others.
To learn more about Bais Chabad Torah Center Jewish Women’s Circle, visit baischabad.com.
Women’s Philanthropy — Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit
Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy group is a 4,000-member strong organization that raises more than $6 million annually for Federation-supported programs and services. It includes Jewish women in Metro Detroit at all ages and stages of life who are committed to being changemakers and community leaders in the Jewish world.
Through networking, learning, fundraising, volunteering and socializing, Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy group discusses key issues facing women today. Members have an opportunity to connect to the Jewish community in a personal way, be a role model for thousands of other women and to inspire the next generation of female leaders.
Among Women’s Philanthropy programs are Jewish Working Women’s Network and Young Women’s Philanthropy.
The Jewish Working Women’s Network includes a Facebook page with more than 1,700 members and offers networking events and resource programs. It’s an outlet for Jewish women in the area to network professionally, find employment, meet clients and even learn about or explore new career paths.
Young Women’s Philanthropy, on the other hand, is for women moving beyond NEXTGen, Federation’s young adult organization, or women who haven’t previously connected with Federation. Here, young women share their interests and passions and work directly with the larger philanthropy group to make a difference in the community.
“We are engaged with key issues facing women and the world today, as well as actively working to advance the strength and welfare of our local and international Jewish community,” says Women’s Philanthropy President Betsy Heuer. “We are networking, learning, fundraising, volunteering and socializing together.”
Federation’s full catalog of offerings for Jewish area women include Tikkun Olam Volunteers, Young Women’s Philanthropy, Jewish Working Women’s Network, Up Next, Israel Connections, travel experiences and an annual signature fundraising event.
To learn more about Women’s Philanthropy or other women’s groups at Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, visit jewishdetroit.org.
Rosh Chodesh Societies
Global initiatives known as Rosh Chodesh Societies strive toward transforming the lives of Jewish women, families and greater Jewish communities through shared Jewish experiences. This international network includes a mix of women scholars, leaders and educators who provide adult education alongside cultural and social programs.
Jewish Metro Detroit hosts its own share of Rosh Chodesh Societies, including those at The Well, Adat Shalom Synagogue and The Shul in West Bloomfield.
“The Well has created and supported Rosh Chodesh circles for young adults in the Metro Detroit area since 2016,” says Marisa Meyerson, director of operations at The Well, an organization that aims to build an inclusive community for young Jewish adults. “Over the years, we’ve supported 12 different groups reaching over 75 women.”
The Well’s Rosh Chodesh circles are a part of a larger Shared Interest Group network where young Jewish individuals participate in Jewish life through meaningful activities. These include Shabbat dinner groups, game groups and more.
“The Well’s Rosh Chodesh circles have very simple guidelines for their monthly meetings,” Meyerson explains. “The ways that each group executes their activities and discussions is up to them and is unique to each group and its members. Activities range from text study to meditation, to arts and crafts, to yoga, to baking and anything else in between.”
At Adat Shalom Synagogue, on the other hand, a Rosh Chodesh Society offers a study session every other month for Jewish women. “To welcome the new month, women in the community are invited to a discussion designed to provide education, intellectual growth and a spiritual lens to change and elevate our perspective on our lives,” says Rochelle Lieberman, Adat Shalom’s Rosh Chodesh study session chairperson.
Similarly, The Shul’s Rosh Chodesh Society provides different activities for Jewish women. These include a women’s roundtable meeting (with sessions on Torah portions, ethics and more), book clubs, retreats and conversations with Jewish leaders.
Women’s Groups Online
By Karen Schwartz
Jewish women across Metro Detroit have been using Facebook groups to share advice and local resources for years now. They’ve found camaraderie and much, much more in the online groups, which have increasingly become a powerful community hub. In a world made otherwise smaller by the pandemic’s restrictions on gathering over the past few years, these groups have continued to thrive, with the constant hum of participation from women posting questions and getting answers as they navigate all aspects of their daily lives.
The women-only spaces mean there are plenty of people to relate to who are going through similar things, says Lindsay Cox, one of the administrators for Jewish Moms Of Metro Detroit, a private Facebook group with 2,900 members.
“It’s a place to bond with other Jewish moms, a place to connect,” Cox says of the moms group started in early 2017 by Farmington Hills resident Lindsay Mall.
Cox, a Farmington Hills-based mom of two, says she’s made friends from the group and loves that everyone’s nearby. “They’re here, they’re within 20 minutes driving if you need something,” she says.
It’s also been a very helpful place to get advice on area doctors, play spaces, schools, babysitters and more.
“I’m in other groups where there are people from all over the world, but this is even better because there are resources here you can use,” she says. “And people’s businesses have grown from it so much.”
So, too, it’s been a space for women seeking special education-focused resources for their kids, navigating difficult marriages or running short on furniture or funds. The community is there for them, she says.
Especially during the pandemic, as moms juggle COVID concerns, work and childcare, it’s been a safe space to vent and seek support, Cox explains. “It’s really helped people feel like they have a place to go and talk about similar issues.”
Lauren Cohen, who runs Free Exchange for Jewish Women of Metro Detroit, a private Facebook group with 3,300 members, doesn’t like throwing things away. Her passion for being environmentally conscious and her desire to help make the community stronger led the Lathrup Village-based mom to start, in 2018, the group, which now sees 50-160 posts a day.
“The mitzvah of helping each other has spread like wildfire, and I think people feel really good about it,” she says. “I think people just feel so good to give to other people in the community.”
Some three-plus years later, the group, which is open to all Jewish women, is thriving. Her admin team — which includes three other area women — has never met all together in person, but they work in tandem to oversee people’s offers of items and referrals, their asks and their messages of gratitude. “This is a passion that we do,” Cohen says. “It’s a labor of love.”
Cohen’s search for baby gates sparked a close friendship. “She had a whole bunch for me,” Cohen recalls. “I came over, and we connected.”
The group has turned up friends she sees regularly and friends she talks to only on Facebook, including some who pass down items for her 3-year-old daughter. “I think really great connections have been found and made through the group, which was one of our goals,” she explains.
The current trend of decluttering and keeping only what fills you with joy also gives the group momentum, she says. “I think it’s filling people’s hearts; it’s filling their buckets to know their stuff is being used.”
Karen Gordon of Farmington Hills started Jewish Moms of Metro Detroit with Older Kids, a private Facebook group, a year and a half ago. Her kids are in college, so she got the group, now 450 members strong, going to give moms a place to discuss issues relevant to older kids.
The group has tackled everything from COVID boosters for the 12-15-year-old set to how to help middle and high school kids deal with being virtual, to where to find a good coin dealer. People have asked about ACT tutors, new houses, piano teachers and more.
Being in the group expands women’s circles, she says, so instead of just getting information from people they know, they get more perspectives. “This is just an amazing way to virtually meet people and feel connected in the community,” she says. “It’s just been a great place to turn to for knowledge, for information.”
Though the Jewish community has spread out, it’s still heimish (homey), she explains, which in many ways is illustrated by the women’s groups that have sprung up and the robust participation by their members. “It’s that tight-knit, looking out for each other,” she says. “We’ve got each other’s backs.”
Likewise, the Facebook group Jewish Working Women’s Network offers women of all ages the opportunity to take part in “Plug Your Business Tuesday,” which happens once a month, and “refHER,” a monthly second-Wednesday event where women encourage each other’s endeavors.
“Whether they own their own business or they’re working for somebody, we just want to say, ‘this person is great,’” says Marianne Bloomberg, administrator for the 1,700-member Facebook group. “I think people are really appreciative of some positive feedback.”
Sponsored by Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit, the group brings women together as part of a network where they can find jobs and clients and connect for referrals and encouragement.
The group also offers in-person networking events three times a year, where women in the group and in Federation’s orbit meet for coffee or soft drinks to share business cards, mingle and chat.
“Ultimately, we want people to be involved in the work of the Federation. We want to cultivate and engage and inform people,” Bloomberg says. “We’re here for you and want to help you … and to ultimately educate you on the community and what’s going on.”
As for the women-only aspect, Jewish Moms of Metro Detroit’s Cox says she and her fellow administrators have discussed the topic several times, but felt it important to create a safe place for women to talk freely about anything and everything. Free Exchange’s Cohen agrees, pointing out that having it women-focused generates a different environment overall.
“I think there’s just an openness that’s different when you’re dealing with all women,” she says. “And something with our Jewish community — I think it’s nice we give to each other and we support each other.”