JGR, Winter 2017/5778 
December 24/Teves 6

Wasn’t day one of the Jewish Girls Winter Leadership Retreat just wonderful?  The day was brilliantly packed with numerous exciting activities, and we made memories to last a lifetime!

A few girls from Bunk 1 – the Yaldah Division – working hard on their self-expression journals!

During registration, as girls arrived from all over and settled in, we both reunited with old friends and greeted new faces.  After every girl received a cozy new sweatshirt bearing their JGR pride, we kicked off with a fun craft:  decorate-your-own self-expression journals to jot down notes in throughout the Retreat.  Flipping through magazines searching for the perfect image clippings, we displayed our unique selves to one another.

After a delicious lunch prepared by the incredibly hard-working Rabbi and Mrs. Gammal, many girls headed off to a journaling workshop led by Susan Axelrod.  There, we learned about the power and value of journaling, how it increases calm and focus in your life, and how it can “hold thoughts still” and give you the chance to reflect and reframe.  Through journaling, you can discover “your Divine Voice.”

The rest of the afternoon was filled with musical chairs featuring our favorite Jewish songs; creative clubs (which we hope you can please join us for, online weekly, Sunday at 1PM ET, where we focus on expressing our neshamas and sharing our talents through creative writing, art, or music with Jewish girls globally!); Tune in Time” group discussion drawing from various inspiring sources on the power of song; a group picture; and last but not least… an actual presentation by Leah (Larson) Caras, founder and publisher of the popular Yaldah Magazine at 12 years of age!  Leah taught us that you’re never too young to make a difference; in her words: “You don’t have to wait for the future.  Dreams start now!”  Another powerful idea she shared, is that “When you have a goal in mind, you ride over the problems. But when you have problems in mind, it’s hard to see the goal.”  This guided her through the challenges and bumps of developing a magazine.  One of my favorite quotes of hers, is “Time is like elastic.”  She explained that the more you take on and do, the more time you will find yourself with to do it.

Leah (Larson) Caras (Photo Credit: Alicia Candelora of the NYTimes)

Chaviva (Elharrar) Tarlow, JGU Choir/Music Head, singing with so much life and skillfully strumming her guitar at JGR!

To follow was a vibrant kumzitz with our beloved JGU/JGR Choir Head and singer Chaviva Tarlow!  It was an unparalleled moment when we linked arms and swayed to the rhythm.  We truly sang with our voices in harmony!

Preceding dinner was a refreshing swimming session, and after it all, dancing!  The ruach and energy was so powerful, and our joy must have shattered all barriers!

Girls were invited to cool down with delicious ice cream sundaes, decorated with sprinkles, fudge sauce, etc…  We gathered into rows and settled down with some tasty popcorn for a very special movie night.  The feature film was in fact the launch of the production created in JGR just last summer (and based on a true story) by numerous gifted, creative girls.

The theme of the movie was shining your Jewish soul proudly, and the unwavering significance of marrying Jewish and building a Jewish home.  With a very “real” storyline and emotion, flavorful characters and stunning choreography, it is a groundbreaking way of giving this vital message over to all Jewish girls.  That is all I will share for now, since I don’t want to spoil it for you.  Im yirtzeh Hashem (G-d willing) the movie will be shared online soon for your viewing convenience, and I strongly encourage you to find a few Jewish girlfriends and enjoy it together; you can organize an amazing JGU meetup!

I’ll shock you by telling you that this wasn’t nearly the conclusion of the evening. :)  When younger bunks set off to prepare for bed, older divisions gathered for bunk time.  Lamplighters (14+) sang Niggunim and discussed the meaning of Hashgocha Pratis (Divine Providence), the miraculous release of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin, and pretty much whatever came to mind.  As night edged into the wee hours of the morning, staff, teens, and a few sleepy but curious younger girls joined as one for a Farbrengen, where all were welcome to share a favorite song and story or memory/emotion it evokes, to complement it.  We also enjoyed a fun connection game in which we all found a way we are like one another.  Tzipporah Prottas, age 15 (that’s me!), was invited to present her story, entitled “Nafshi Chamda (My Soul Yearns)”, reflecting on her Jewish journey, the purpose, passion and joy she’s discovered along the way into greater Torah and mitzvah observance, and how she is inspired by Chassidus.

Content and satiated with both food for the soul and body, everyone gradually drifted off to sleep, all eager for what the following morning would bring.

Thank you JGR Staff and Hashem!!!

— Tzipporah