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8.5.16 Issue

Annette van de Kamp-Wright, Editor of the Jewish Press

From July 11 through the 18th, ten Jewish Omaha women traveled to Israel. They were part of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) MOMentum Trip, which brings Jewish women to Israel for an immersion experience that combines learning, excursions and spirituality — and then some. These women came back enriched, inspired and they became best friends in the process.

Sonia Tipp never really thought of herself as an exceptionally spiritual person. “I just never nurtured that part of myself,” she said, “and when I had the chance to join the MOMentum trip through the Jewish Federation of Omaha, I decided to do it.”

Plus, the timing was right. Sonia is starting a new job as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist this month, so going to Israel is not something she’ll have the chance to repeat very soon: “The logistics were never going to be this easy again,” she said. “As for why this was the right trip to go on, I was drawn to the overall mission. The MOMentum trip allowed for me to connect to the culture and history of Israel, and experience the signs and the sights. What I mean by that is the unexpected things that pop up when you travel. For instance, seeing the building of the Jewish National Fund — we are all familiar with JNF, we’ve heard the name many times since childhood, but to suddenly see the actual building, the bricks and mortar, and realize it is more than an idea, is phenomenal.”

It wasn’t Sonia’s first time in Israel. In fact, her mother is a Sabra, born in Israel, and her family took her for a visit at 16: “After WW II, my grandparents came back from Siberia to Poland and found there was nothing left for them. They moved to Israel, and my mother was born there. After a number of years, they moved to the United States. For them, it was a time of great transition with an uncertain future, and although my personal transition from working part-time for the last five years to starting a full-time job  isn’t of the same magnitude, it was nonetheless special and meaningful to be here exactly when my life is about to change. Being there as an adult, and as a mother, was even more amazing.”

The total immersion during the trip spoke to her: “It was so fascinating to be surrounded by the people, the food, the language, just to be there, in Israel. When do you ever get the chance to just “be” and take time for yourself? To let it all sink in and relish it — together with the Israeli salads and the food in general, it was my favorite part of this trip.”

Among the many sights and sites, Yad Vashem spoke to Sonia more than anything, she said. “When you talk about emotional impact, Yad Vashem will definitely stay with me. It was difficult and overwhelming, especially the children’s memorial. It’s not something I will soon forget.”

Overall, she said the trip has made her more fascinated with religious practices. Even more, “the meaning behind it interests me,” she said. “And that is something that surprised me. I thought it was beautiful how one trip leader described her interpretation of lighting the candles: the first candle was for her, the second one for her husband, and the  additional candles for her children.          Being back home with husband Alan and daughter Adria (10) and son Asher (8) means sharing her experiences with her family. “The kids loved seeing the photos on Facebook every day, but they haven’t asked any complicated questions — yet. They did want to know all about the Dead Sea, so I told them it was slimy and hot, and how cool it was to float!”

This trip, especially for Sonia, was meant to be. The evening after Sonia interviewed with Trip Leader Louri Sullivan, and found out from Louri she would be going, she told her mother about her plans:

“…and my mom says, stop! You’re going where? As it turns out, she and my grandmother had just attended a lecture in Columbia, Maryland by Lori Palatnik, the JWRP’s founder. If that isn’t a sign, what is?”