The home my parents provided for my sisters and me was one filled with love and respect, but something was missing. Being that we were an interfaith family — Mom was raised Irish Catholic while my father was raised Jewish — the concepts of faith and religion were rarely discussed. They were able to provide me with everything I ever asked for — I wanted for nothing.
That is, until I realized what my life was lacking — community.
You see, as social, outgoing and connected as I am, I struggled to find a core group of people to surround myself with shared values, and I wanted to live life to the fullest. When I started to focus on what really mattered to me, I kept coming back to my dad and the faith of his family. Something about the subtlety of the faith and the countless stories of strength and perseverance drew me in.
But where do I begin?
I was blessed to meet an amazing stranger who invited me to my first Shabbat dinner, where I would meet several individuals I now call my dearest friends. From there, things really took off and I discovered so many amazing opportunities available in our community. I began to connect with individuals from all walks of Jewish life, and not once was I ever made to feel less Jewish than anyone else because of how I came to be there. Everyone embraced my story, my thirst for knowledge and my desire for community.
A big shift occurred for me when I discovered Valley Beit Midrash (VBM). I first met Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz at Limmud in 2015, and later attended a handful of VBM lectures to finish out their season. As the next season approached, I looked at their offerings and made the decision to become a season pass holder — I still qualified for the young professional rate, so that made the investment even more worthwhile. I treated the VBM Lecture Series as my formal Jewish education. I made every lecture a priority, taking diligent notes and discussing sessions with other participants. And when the opportunity to work alongside Rabbi Yanklowitz presented itself, I didn’t hesitate to apply.
When people ask me if I have the community that I’ve always wanted, I tell them, “Not yet.”
You see, there is always something more to do … more people to meet, more experiences to be had, more connections to be made. And that is why I want to invite women in our community who are 30 to 45 to join me for VBM’s first ever Young Professional Women’s Retreat on Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center. Working with Rabbi Sherre Hirsch of Hillel International and Rabbi Elana Kanter of the Women’s Jewish Learning Center, we are planning a day filled with self-discovery, personal reflection and community building.
My hope is that women from all corners of Jewish life in Phoenix feel welcome and that we can discover our superpowers to build a community we all can be proud of. Learn more and register today at valleybeitmidrash.org. JN
Meghan Dorn is the program director for Valley Beit Midrash, a member of Congregation Or Tzion, and co-founder of Madams at the Well, a Rosh Hodesh group for women in their 20s, 30s and 40s.