Women learn about happiness at Kollel conference


PROVIDENCE – Close to 100 Jewish women from different parts of New England gathered Nov. 19 for a stimulating day of study, dialogue and reflection. The occasion was the annual Tichyeh Schochet Memorial Conference for Jewish Women, dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Schochet, a beloved educator for 20 years.

The women’s division of the Providence Community Kollel arranged for speakers with both Jewish and secular expertise to discuss issues that play central roles in women’s lives. The workshops, lectures, exercises and collaboration, all with the theme “A Happy You,” took place at the Alliance’s Dwares Jewish Community Center.

The conference began with a riveting keynote address by Yaffa Palti, titled “Happy Is the New Pretty.” Elissa Felder introduced the charismatic speaker. Palti, a trained educator as well as a substance abuse professional and marriage counselor, concentrated on the pursuit of happiness. She used Torah wisdom to reiterate the need for us to be in control of our lives. The result is that you are in control, not someone else. She stated that happiness is not a destination ... it is a way of traveling, and it is not someone else’s responsibility.

Palti, a native New Yorker who now lives in San Diego, shared her personal stories and those of others both in her keynote address and in her workshop, “The Evolution of Self ... Who Am I.” This workshop was given both in morning and afternoon sessions. Her focus included quotes from Viktor Frankl, the discussion of “creating an identity” and the firm conviction that if there is something standing in between the “me of yesterday” and the “me of tomorrow,” one needs to identify it and find a way to conquer it.  She additionally spoke about internal and external identities.

She encourages others with her stand-by motto, “If I can’t remove it, I’ll improve it.” 

Morning workshop choices included “Nourishing the Body to Engage the Soul ... Engaging the Soul to Nourish the Body,” presented by Miriam Lipson, an inspiring teaching professional for more than 30 years; “How to Start Finding Your Ancestors Without Leaving Your Kitchen Computer,” presented by  Marilyn  Lipton Okonow; and “Have your Torah and Eat It, Too,” with Kayla Hack, who has taught Jewish education in elementary schools in New York and Connecticut for almost 20 years and is currently teaching at Providence Hebrew Day School. Her passion is creating delicious weekly parashah desserts for her family.

Chef Freda Baer and her team at Ahava Catering served a delicious buffet lunch in the Social Hall, and a special ice cream dessert buffet at the close of the program.

The after-lunch workshops included “The Original Jewish Wonder Woman: Her Legacy for the Present and Future,” presented by Elisheva Bielory, a dynamic teacher who moved to Rhode Island as a founding member of the Providence Community Kollel.

“Identifying and Managing Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome” was presented by the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation and involved a discussion of involved hereditary cancer risk and what medical management changes one should consider.

“Be a Mentsch – Teaching Our Children How to Behave Without Lecturing” was presented by Miriam Esther Weiner, Providence Hebrew Day School’s principal for the last 20 years. Weiner addressed individual scenarios regarding parenting children, and she emphasized that mothers do not have be “super women.” She also discussed the important lessons of listening to your children and being honest with them.  “You don’t have to have guests every Shabbat,” she said, noting that having Shabbat with your own family at times is a healthy and good choice as well.  Weiner’s expertise in parenting, along with humorous anecdotes, was greatly appreciated by all present. 

A special presentation was made by Shoshanah Lapin encouraging women to read “The Other Side of the Story,” in memory of Mrs. Schochet.

At the end of the day, all attending the conference left feeling inspired.

ELLY LEYMAN, of Providence, is a self-employed researcher and resource specialist. She can be reached at elly207@gmail.com.

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