Sisters forever: Yoav visit to the valley strengthens Momentum bonds

By Annette Mashi
Special to HAKOL
It seemed like only yesterday that 12 women from Lehigh Valley hopped on a plane to visit Israel as part of the Momentum program. The first stop on that trip in July 2019 was to Yoav, the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley’s partner community. From the moment these women got off the bus, we felt the bonds of friendship beginning. 
We traveled together through Yoav — to the Arab village Al-Azi, to Kibbutz Gat for wine tasting and chocolate making, and to the Mark L. Goldstein, z”l, grove for tree planting. Spending the evening with host families, the Lehigh Valley women learned more about Yoav. No trip to the region is complete without stopping at the Beit Guvrin Caves and the Tom and Tomer Memorial in Kibbutz Negba. 
Then it was time to join the official Momentum journey. As we traveled through Israel, friendships with the Momentum participants grew and strengthened. Safet, Massada, the Dead Sea, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem — no matter where we were, we explored and connected. Laughing, sharing stories and experiences, and learning about each other, the nine days passed quickly. Plenty of tears were shed when the trip ended and the women had to return to their lives in the Lehigh Valley. We said our goodbyes and promised to keep in touch.
And so we did. Whether it was through Facebook posts or Whatsapp messages, we continued to keep each other updated on what happened in our individual lives. We were excited to learn that in 2020 the Yoav delegation for Partnership2Gether would travel to the Lehigh Valley. We’ll see our Momentum sisters! However, COVID-19 changed that and the trip was postponed.
We would have to settle for jumping on Zoom calls to see how everyone was coping. Was there someone who needed assistance? When would we see each other in person again?
Finally, after a two-year wait, the Yoav delegation visit was scheduled for May 2022. As the days drew closer, constant messages were sent. “You must stay with me,” said Wendy Edwards to Yael Feller Malka and Amy Sams to me. “Of course,” we replied. After all, we had no doubt that we were coming to be hosted by our sisters. Wendy contacted all the other Lehigh Valley women to arrange an evening together, where else but at Naomi Elice Schachter’s beautiful home. 
Around the table with everyone taking turns to share updates on their lives, their families, their triumphs, and their sorrows, we created another memory to add to memories from the past.
As part of the Yoav delegation to the Lehigh Valley, we met with not only the past participants of Momentum, but also the women who will be part of the Momentum trip this July. Tali Haion, a member of the Yoav delegation who will also be joining the trip in July, got the chance to schmooze and connect with her new friends. We could feel their anticipation and excitement as the women from the past trips gave tips to make this year’s trip even better. They are in for a truly wonderful journey, and we look forward to hearing about their adventures in Israel and in Yoav.
The Momentum trip in 2019 was life-changing for each of us in our own way, empowering us to be stronger and to learn to ask for help when we need it. We know that our sisters are there, excited to celebrate our successes. We encourage each other to venture forward, to have confidence, and we look to each other for inspiration. 
All the participants say they consider the Momentum journey a gift they gave to themselves. You will always be busy and can always find excuses to delay the experience, but when we, as women, learn to put ourselves and our needs first, it’s better for our families as a whole. Having love, family, and friends makes our lives richer, fuller, and happier. Isn’t that what life is all about?