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First Community Rosh Chodesh celebration to tap into success of women’s seders
December 21st, 2001
Each year for the past five years, some 500-600 women have gathered for the Community Women’s Seder, celebrating what event organizers have described in part as “a journey without end that binds [women] to generations past and future.”
Now, “to find another reason to gather women from all parts of the community to develop a feeling of connectedness,” said Evy Garfinkel, director of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Women’s Division, all Jewish women — mothers, daughters, sisters and friends — are invited to attend the first Women’s Community Rosh Chodesh Celebration. Described as a spiritual evening of music, dance and friendship, it will be held Tuesday, Jan. 15, 7 p.m., at Congregation Beth Israel. Women age 12 and older are welcome.
“Milwaukee women have enthusiastically participated in the Women’s Community Seder for the past five years, and we hope they will be equally supportive of this new event,” said Marge Eiseman, a nationally recognized Rosh Chodesh workshop leader who is serving as the event coordinator.
She explained, “Rosh Chodesh, the New Moon, is the holiday that marks the beginning of a new month. A Rosh Chodesh celebration brings people together to rejoice in the rhythms of their lives. It is like a mini-Rosh HaShanah, when women can set goals for the new month, which lends a sense of purpose and rhythm to our lives.”
Garfinkel said that “rather than lose the momentum of coming together as a community of women because the women’s seder will not be held this year, we decided to approach the [Rosh Chodesh] expert in our midst, Marge, to coordinate such an event.”
Eiseman, a member of Congregation Sinai’s Rosh Chodesh group for 13 years, credits the planning committee, chaired by Shari Sadek, Beatrice Strick and Ruth Wallace, with “having the vision to expand the concept to the entire community. It’s been my experience that Rosh Chodesh groups usually develop within a synagogue or JCC setting. This is quite unique to involve all the women of the community. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
Wallace said she joined a local group as a newcomer to Milwaukee several years ago. “I joined as a way to meet people here. I’ve met wonderful women with whom I don’t have a lot in common. We’re of different ages and backgrounds, but we’ve come together seeking Judaic education, a spiritual connection and an outlet for our creativity.”
By organizing a community-wide celebration, Wallace expects to help “teach those unfamiliar with the observance about Rosh Chodesh, offer women an opportunity to connect with one another on various levels and possibly inspire some to either join existing groups or form new ones.”
Noting differences between the events, Eiseman explained, “At the seders participants followed a prepared service in special Haggadahs. This event will not be scripted and will have more emphasis on stimulating the mind, body, spirit and emotions.”
She added, “The seder was not designed for participants to meet new people since most made reservations to sit with family or friends. This event will be less structured. I loved the seders, but I’m excited to experience something else that women can do together. I hope some of the skeptics are willing to give it a try. We all have something to bring to the event and hopefully everyone will take something away as well.”
Wallace agreed and added, “I think some of those who attended the seders may assume this will be a similar environment and try it. But it will be different. Participants should dress casually so they can partake in the activities.”
Both Eiseman and Wallace envision a diverse population including the Orthodox. Wallace said, “The Rosh Chodesh [event] is a women’s celebration, with no religious practices. We want this to be appealing to women of all ages and backgrounds.”
Garfinkel believes that the underlying factor that made the seders so successful was the “involvement and participation” of the organizations that constitute the Presidents’ Conference of MJF’s Women’s Division, which is among the convening organizations of the Rosh Chodesh event.
Others include B’nai B’rith Girls, Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center and the National Council of Jewish Women-Milwaukee Section.
Dessert will be served. Cost is $15. Dietary laws will be observed. Reservations are due Dec. 27. For more information, call Garfinkel at 390-5704.