Jewish Women of Wisdom, the community for frum female midlifers, reached a milestone this month. With the launch of its own website and membership space, JWOW!, as it is popularly known, is now the interactive home for a population that hitherto had unaddressed needs and wants.
Orthodox women 50+ are educated and highly committed to community, learning, and family. Yet, they are confronted by a very different reality outside and inside when they are at this age and stage. They are busy with career changes, caring for elderly parents, dealing with an empty nest, planning moves to new communities, or starting their retirement. They are seasoned by life and learning, but they are smart. They want to hear how their peers are dealing with adult marrieds, boomerang children, caregiving conflicts, and the issues they confront. “There is no handbook for this stage,” notes a woman from Cedarhurst. “When we were kallahs and young mothers, there was guidance. We are living very different lives from the lives of our mothers. “
JWOW! was begun by three visionary women three years ago who recognized this need. Sara Brejt, a career coach specializing in mid-career transitions and Jewish educator then living in Cleveland, listened to Bracha Meltzer interviewing Miriam Liebermann and Faigie Horowitz on midlife matters on a Chazaq radio program.
“I want more of this conversation,” she thought and reached out to contact the two speakers. Miriam was the editor of two groundbreaking anthologies for this population, The Best is Yet To Be and To Fill the Sky with Stars, both published by Menucha, as well as a writer for several publications. Faigie Horowitz, rebbetzin of the Agudas Achim Shul in Lawrence, was also a writer and nonprofit leader. It didn’t take long for these three activists to start their group.
JWOW! is an international volunteer-led community of Orthodox women 50+ who gather to share ideas and concerns unique to this age and stage through Zoom events, website-based online forums, and in-person gatherings. JWOW!’s mission is to foster creative aging and saging for the crowd that is beyond carpools; its tagline is “Connect. Communicate. Grow.”
First there were in-person events in various communities on the eastern seaboard. COVID put an end to that, so the group pivoted to Zoom for get-togethers, discussion, and creative responses to quarantine. Participation spanned the spectrum of Orthodoxy as well as the globe; single women, grandmothers, and professionals from Denver to Toronto to Detroit to Teaneck participated in programming approximately every six weeks.
The women wanted to socialize and share across geographic boundaries. JWOW!’s leadership which now includes Miriam Hendeles of Los Angeles, music therapist, and author of Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby! and Best Foot Forward published by Israel Bookshop, responded by overseeing the development of a website, one that offers socialization, connection and growth. Curated forums for discussion, zoom programs, and other exclusive content are now available through the website for members of JWOW! and the midlife community at www.jewishwomenofwisdom.org. Both non-members and members can subscribe to a bi-weekly newsletter. A full two-page spread explains to viewers in pictorial format, colorful graphics and engaging text what JWOW! Is all about.
The response has been enthusiastic. Participants who have been receiving emails from the group every other week for the past years and new women are joining now that formal membership is an option. “It’s a beautiful, informative website that really communicates what you’re about and gives women the chance to get involved!! Love it!” responded a speech therapist from Toronto. For the woman with creative interests, family relationships, literary interests, and more, there is a thread for each of these topics where she can share ideas and resources. “It’s a resource for me because the other women share my culture and values and are open to my experiences. I’m enjoying hearing their insights and experiences,” says a new member from Baltimore.