By Allison Solomon
This past Friday 52 women drove to Stradford, Ontario for a Women’s retreat. On Sunday 52 women drove back feeling spiritually uplifted, connected to their community and motivated to be better parents, spouses, sisters and mothers and to undertake performing one or more mitzvahs.
Oprah was not in town, it was the sisterhood of Markham led by Goldie Poltkin, Esther Gitlin, Sara Konsker and Avivah Forer.
This team was complimented by an outstanding committee led by Jennifer Silver, Heather Aaron, Hailey Knopman, Michelle Benjamin, Chaya Berktin and Allison Meshwok.
Trust me having attended the retreat Oprah and her team can learn a thing or two. The event began with 52 women lighting Shabbos candles. Can you imagine the power and beauty of 52 women standing together and welcoming the Shabbos Bride. We were then treated to a royal Shabbat dinner. The room looked dazzling and was filled with delicious food and lots of conversation as the women at the retreat began to connect with each other.
Goldie led an inspirational speech on overcoming life’s challenges by knowing that Hashem is with you and with his guidance you need to get up and fight and not be weighed down.
Following the dinner we changed into pj’s, let our hair down and led by Allison Meshwok learned about each other. You would be surprised how many of us have been parasailing, appeared in newspapers and are not good liars.
We were fortunate to have a special guest appearance by the Thornhill Comedy act of Bev Chait, Melinda Paiken and Edna Lipworth.
Saturday morning we were woken with gift bags outside our door filled with snacks so we could stay in bed a little longer. Following breakfast, Sarah Konsker led a discussion on “that ever elusive feeling of contentment”. Sara’s take home message was that the more we are concerned with our own happiness the farther we are away from achieving it.
As soon as we forget about what we need and instead focus on what we are needed for – the good we can do for ourselves rather than the good we can get for ourselves – we can achieve a state of happiness.
Some of us davened the morning services while others met with Esther to learn the meaning behind the morning prayers. After feeding our souls it was time for some more food. Jennifer Silver and Heather Aaron treated us to a beautiful Shabbat lunch and led us in a game in analyzing our core values.
While we did have the option of choosing a nose job or a Lamborghini as core values most of us chose health, mutual respect, honesty, love and Jewish traditions as those that were most important to us. Jeanette Podolsky then shared her story of surviving cancer and embracing the future. Yes, this was an inspirational tear jerker.
A big thanks to Jeannette for sharing her story and showing us that by being surrounded by Hashem, friends and our community we can overcome anything.
Following lunch there were two interactive workshops one on parenting and one on 50-plus and Freaking out. I only attended the parenting workshop led by Goldie, Avivah and Esther. All I can say is that if you want advice put down your parenting books and attend any lectures given by this trio because you will walk away with practical tips that will make you not only a better parent but a better person.
Following a short rest we then met for our Shalosh seudot meal. During our meal Goldie led us in a discussion on how to keep our marriages vibrant and passionate. In one word, shake your comfort zone, remember who is the most important person in your life and put your effort there. Look good for your spouse not the car pool line up. We were then treated to a moving discussion by Michelle Benjamin on the meaning of Havdallah. The power in the room was incredible – 52 women feeling spiritually uplifting saying goodbye to the Shabbos bride.
Yes we survived a whole Shabbos without Facebook, cell phones, ipads and ipods. Denims and Diamonds was the theme of our Motzei Shabbos dinner hosted by Michelle Benjamin and Allison Meshwok. We had a special guest appearance from the Saturday night live team made up of the Thornhill Dynamic Duo Melinda and Bev.
Again please see the pictures as words do not do them any justice. All I will say is that next time I need an appointment at Woody Melinda will have to take my call as we have the goods on her. Of course at this stage we had not eaten enough food so we went to the pool and had a chocolate fondue accompanied by the Dynamic Duo’s performance.
Sunday morning we all woke up to a vintage breakfast hosted by Goldie and Hayley Knopman. The highlight of the morning was a mitzvah auction whereby committing to perform one or more mitzvah’s we were awarded tickets for some amazing raffle prizes.
Goodbyes were said and we all got back into our cars back to reality. But this time we are facing reality with more meaning. The retreat as provided me with some of the tools that I need to be a better person, mother, sister, friend and wife.
I did not have to fly to Chicago to go to the Oprah Winfrey show to get these tools. Through the help of the Rebbetzins in our community I found my tools from a 5000 year old book – the TORAH.
I encourage those of you who were not able to attend the retreat to not wait until next year but treat yourself to a Saturday morning Shiur with Goldie and her team and learn the tools that you need to grow as a person. They are not only on at 4p.m. with the Oprah show but are right here in your backyard at 83 Green Lane.
I would also like to extend a huge Mazeltov to the Retreat committee. You surpassed everyone’s expectations over and over again. Well done. I only have one thing left to say – What weekend do I need to book off for next year.