Touring Aish HaTorah women from St. Louis form bond with Israel

The Aish HaTorah group of 16 women from St. Louis pose in Israel this summer.

By Debra Klevens

For an eighth year, Aish HaTorah of St. Louis partnered with the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) to bring womenwith children under 18 years old on an eight-day journey through Israel. 

After 12 hours of traveling,the 16 women arrived in Tel Aviv and took a bus to Tiberias, where they were introduced to trip leader Adrienne Gold, who kicked off the tour with a lecture about “Gossip, Lies and Lessons.”  The women then walked to dinner overlooking the Sea of Galilee at Decks restaurant with more than 200 women from Israel, the United States and Johannesburg, South Africa who were on similar tours.

“The energy and excitement after traveling all night and sweating all day was forgotten as soon as the dancing began,” said Randi Schenberg, one of the JWRP participants. After dinner the women danced to Israeli music played at the Decks restaurant. “The spirit in the air was contagious,”added Schenberg.

The next day, the women traveled to Safed, the city of mysticism, where they visited a mikvah, toured the city and shopped. 

 “My goal was to find a beautiful hamsa necklace, and I found the perfect one for me. It just found me,” said Laurie Burstein, another participant.


 Tel Aviv was the next destination, and the women went to the Israeli Stock Exchange, toured the cityand went to Independence Hall. 

 “We got to appreciate what Israel has built in so little time,” Lori Kabrun-Berry said. “Singing the ‘Hatikvah’ there was a momentous occasion. The odds were stacked against us, but a miracle happened. It brought me to tears.”

In Jerusalem, the women received personalized siddurim as a gift from Aish before heading out to the Kotel, the Western Wall.

“I had an overwhelming feeling that this is where I was supposed to be,” Ella Pernik said. “I felt so included and loved. To hold the gorgeous siddur for the first time, and to use it in the holiest of places, was special to me. I will never forget the moment and the feeling of completion.”

 In addition, the women rode camels at Abraham’s tourist spot in Jerusalem,baked pita bread and received a Hebrew name if they did not already have one. 

“As I got up on the camel with Randi Schenberg, I was terrified as we started walking toward the path on the very edge of the high hilltop,” Marla Grossman said. “I looked down and I kept thinking of how I would jump off if the camel were to tumble or veer off the path.

“But suddenly, I started thinking about camels and how they lived and directed us in the desert thousands of years ago. And I couldn’t think of a time when the Torah said that the camel fell or the camel went crazy like a spooked horse.  Suddenly, I felt calm and began enjoying our short ride led by a Bedouin.”

At Masada, the Aish women wore Brockabrella hats to keep cool.

“As we walked around Masada, the sofer (scribe), who was writing a Torah scroll, called me over and asked me my Hebrew name,” Meredith Goette said. “They aren’t supposed to talk to you, so I was startled. It was the first time I ever used my Hebrew name. He handed me my Hebrew name on parchment paper with a heart and told me I was going to find love.”

The powerful message of Masada resonated with everyone:  “Find something you are willing to die for, and go live for it.” 

 The women toured Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem and learned about its Medical Clown Project. They also visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

“My third visit to the Children’s Memorial at the Holocaust museum proved to be the most difficult,” Meredith Freidman said. “As I listened to the names, birthdates and cities of the children murdered, my heart tore. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering they went through and sheer terror that their mothers experienced.” 

Back in St. Louis, the 16 women plan to meet monthly to continue their spiritual journey.

“I was glued to my seat and never wanted to leave because I didn’t want to miss anything the speakers said,” Julie Lander said. “They provided us with powerful information for our everyday lives, and I look forward to continuing to be inspired throughout the year.”

The trip was a recharge of their Jewish energy, infusing them with inspiration and wisdom for everyday living from the best place in the world and some of the most inspiring teachers. 

The women could not stop praising the knowledge, inspiration and humor provided by St. Louis Aish leadersMimi David and Pirchie Greenspon.  

“The Aish HaTorah trip had all the best components: fun, education and inspiration,” Friedman said. “I don’t know of any other trip that has the full package like this.”