Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project rebrands as Momentum at anniversary

“Who you hang out with is who you will become, the school you pick for your kids is not just who your children will be but who your grandchildren will be.”

Photos from Momentum/JWRP 10th anniversary event (photo credit: MOMENTUM)
Photos from Momentum/JWRP 10th anniversary event
(photo credit: MOMENTUM)
The Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project formally announced its new name, Momentum, at its 10th anniversary celebrations on Monday, in the presence of Israel Prize winner Miriam Peretz, Israeli author Lihi Lapid and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.
The organization has brought 18,000 women to Israel from 29 countries with the purpose of strengthening Jewish homes, families and communities by inspiring Jewish mothers to take up these goals back home.
And Momentum is now broadening its reach by launching a new website to provide content on challenges faced by Jewish mothers in various forms of different media.
Some five hundred Momentum participants from nine countries were in attendance at the celebratory event Monday night, where the Shalva Band, comprised of musicians with disabilities who performed at the Eurovision Song Contest this year, were among the performers.
One of the organization’s co-founders, Lori Palatnik, explained the origins of Momentum’s founding, and why the group decided to target women in particular.
“We saw that Jewish communities were getting weaker; we saw kids leaving the Jewish faith out of ignorance, and turning their backs on Israel for the same reason,” said Palatnik of herself and the seven other women who founded the organization in 2009.
She explained the thinking behind Momentum, arguing that three key decisions in family life are largely determined by mothers, namely where a family lives, where their children go to school and with whom the family socializes.
“Who you hang out with is who you will become; the school you pick for your kids is not just who your children will be but who your grandchildren will be,” she says.
“If you can impact, influence, educate and empower a mother, you can inspire a family. And if you inspire enough families, you can inspire a community. And if you can inspire enough communities, you change the world. That was our theory of change, and it’s happening.”
Momentum’s primary form of inspiration is through an eight-day trip to Israel – for which participants pay only their airfare – to bolster and reinforce their Jewish identity and then bring that inspiration home.
It is targeted specifically at Jewish women who are not engaged with the Jewish community, but who have children at home under the age of 18.
The organization is inter-denominational, with participants from different Jewish backgrounds, and it partners with over 200 other organizations from across the Jewish spectrum, which advertise and promote the trip among their members.
The organization’s activities gained the attention of Israel’s Diaspora Affairs Ministry, which in 2014 asked it to begin operations in Eastern Europe to attract women from Jewish communities there to its program, which it did.
The ministry, together with the Prime Minister’s Office, now funds Momentum to the tune of 15% of its $13 million budget.
Following the trip, Momentum participants take part in a year-long curriculum involving monthly meetings to continue studying and encourage community activism and engagement.
Palatnik says that many of the participants have begun new initiatives and, activities and have started 25 new organizations.
In Momentum’s annual report, a study it commissioned found that participants had an increased sense of their Jewish identity, while children of participants were more likely to be enrolled in Jewish day schools and Jewish youth groups, and attend Jewish summer camps.
Asked why she and the other founders had decided to focus specifically on women as the driving factor for change in the Jewish community, Palatnik said it was due to what she described as the ability of women to help everyone in their family as individuals.
“I’m speaking in general – there are exceptions – but a man’s ego drives him to success but is also sometimes a boulder he trips over,” she said.
“It doesn’t mean women don’t have an ego, but it’s a gift women have that we can see the bigger picture and see everybody in our family as individuals. We have a goal where we want them to go, and we’re able to help them as individuals to get to that goal.”