Between social distancing and political divisions, it can be easy to feel disconnected from fellow community members these days. For those looking for a place to connect, Chabad of Park Heights’ Jewish Women’s Circle strives to be a welcoming place for all Jewish women, regardless of their synagogue or denomination.
Started two years ago by Chomi Raices, the program director for Chabad of Park Heights, the circle is a place for “all Jewish women, not necessarily Chabad, just all women coming together to be inspired, learn about the holiday, meet each other, have some fun in an environment of warmth and learning and inspiration,” she said.
Jewish Women’s Circles can be found at Chabads the world over, Raices said, though each one is run independently. She added that it does not have a fixed membership, and that participation varies by event. Prior to the pandemic, the circle organized a few events each year, with some having as many as 50 or 60 participants. Past events have included a hamantaschen bake and a paint night, Raices said. The hamantaschen bake included a discussion on the meaning of the holiday pastry, after which the attendees brought the baked hamantaschens back with them to “bring a taste of Purim to our homes.” The paint night took place during the month of Kislev, “which is all about light,” Raices said. “So we painted a picture of this beautiful lantern in the garden, and we talked about the importance of bringing light into the world.”
The pandemic had placed the circle’s activities on pause, Raices said, but they are now looking forward to an upcoming outdoor event, Ceramics in the Sukkah. Raices said she hopes this event will reignite their programming.
Additionally, the circle also organizes one-on-one learning sessions on subjects such as the Torah and the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, normally either over the phone or through Zoom.
Chabad of Park Heights Rabbi Elchonon Lisbon expressed how modern technology had proven useful for these programs. “The truth is, because of the Zoom, people who otherwise could not attend personally in synagogue are finding this an opportune moment for them to connect and study,” he said.
According to Raices, one of the best parts of the circle is how it fosters friendships between different women.
“I’ve seen a lot of beautiful friendships grow,” Raices said. “Women that would not necessarily have met before, have interacted before, it’s really beautiful to see these friendships develop.”
Raices herself met one friend through the group. The two speak and learn regularly together. Raices’ friend has even helped her with her children on occasion.
“The whole community coming together, it’s really beautiful to see,” Raices said. “Baltimore has a wonderful, beautiful community, with all different levels of observance, and not necessarily do we always come together. And I feel this is one program that all women can come together in.”