By Amanda Wachstein, NFTY-PAR Advisor
The best gifts in the world are the people in our lives and the moments we share together, especially when those people are our mothers, the women who have made us strong, resilient and loving. These women come in all shapes and sizes; they speak different languages; they work both in and outside the home; they chauffeur and clean and cook and do endless laundry. They are elegant and fun, all at the same time. Our moms impact our world, far and near, in different ways.
We can name famous mothers such as Sarah and Leah, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, or Madonna. These remarkable, very different women are or were leaders and visionaries who will long be remembered. However, I believe that each of our own mothers has made a lasting influence, albeit in circles closer to our homes. This Sunday, Mother’s Day, offers each of us an opportunity to acknowledge our incredible moms. When was the last time you told your Mom how much you appreciate her? I know, from first-hand experience, that a mother’s love is unconditional and enduring. She nurtures, feeds, clothes, teaches, supports, encourages and gives all that she can.
I grew up in an average-sized family with two parents, two daughters and a dog. Females dominated our home. My Dad didn’t stand a chance – he learned, very early, to put the toilet seat down! He scared our dates but later shopped for wedding gowns. His world included fashion, cheerleading, and dealing with endless teenaged drama. Somehow, he gave us all the love and support we ever needed, despite the house being endlessly filled with so many girls with all their moods!
My maternal grandmother, Gangy, launched our family of strong-minded females. We speak our minds and believe in ourselves. Ours is not a family where females sit back and allow life to float by. Rather, we learned to take the bull by the horns, make our way, and enjoy the ride. My mom expanded Gangy’s legacy. I truly have the most remarkable mom in the world; I will go as far as saying, I have the best mom in the world but I hope most people feel as I do.
My mom taught my sister Lysa and me to always believe in ourselves, to love deeply, to laugh a lot, to always try our best, to work hard, to be polite but speak up, to not dwell in the past, to brush ourselves off and learn from mistakes, to try new things, to make learning lifelong, to give to others, to eat chocolate on bad days, and to remember that tomorrow always brings a new day.
Both my parents, but especially my Mom, instilled the Reform Jewish values I practice daily. L’Dor V’dor…they are the same values that my husband Ben and I share with our five year-old daughter Mila. Celebrating holidays with family and friends, caring about the environment, respecting all human beings, doing mitzvot, and on and on…these are values I learned from my Mom.
One could say that I have been a ‘pseudo-mom’ for the past twelve years while serving as the NFTY-PAR Advisor. Other than motherhood, being a NFTY Advisor is my life’s passion. The work that I do in NFTY is life affirming, intentional and extremely rewarding. Having the opportunity to mentor, guide and shape our teens who will lead the next Reform Jewish generation is humbling. Every four years, I have the privilege of witnessing a new NFTY generation enter our sacred kehillah and begin a transformation which concludes four years later when each graduating NFTYite stands confident, knowledgeable and passionate about being a Jew. This sometimes seems like a miracle, and it is always awesome to see! So much of what I give to NFTY comes originally from the values my Mom imparted to me.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day and all our mothers, we cannot overlook the birth of NFTY by its founders, the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, today named Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ). Since WRJ sought and fought to create a Reform Jewish youth movement in 1939 through to today, WRJ has supported NFTY both financially and with hands-on support. Just this year, WRJ gave thousands of dollars to support the Campaign for Youth Engagement. WRJ sponsored the Dan Nichols Concert at the NFTY Convention. Without thousands of dollars in supportive scholarships given by local sisterhoods, many of our teens would never participate in the many NFTY programs we offer.
During this historic Centennial celebration, we at NFTY congratulate and honor WRJ. Its Centennial logo says inspired by its past…committed to the future. WRJ lives these words every day. This remarkable 100th birthday is a testament to what passion, diligence and determination can create. On this Mother’s Day, let us honor and thank every woman in our congregations, Women of Reform Judaism.
Celebration, in part, honors an individual or marks a rite of passage. But at its hearts, a celebration also pays tribute to something larger than ourselves – our connection to community, to shared life experiences, and to love. Many good wishes to everyone this Sunday as you celebrate with your moms, sisters, grandmas, bubbies, gangys and bubbios. Remember to show how much you appreciate their love and all they mean to you. Happy Mother’s Day to all of our incredible mothers!!