In the old days, before computers were ubiquitous and everyone had a Facebook page, joining an affiliated sisterhood was the only way to benefit from membership in Women’s League, what has been the world’s largest synagogue-based women’s organization for almost a century. But in 2012, with the goal of being a network for all Conservative Jewish women, individual members were invited to join our ranks. Counted among our individual members are women whose synagogues have closed or sisterhoods folded, women who are home-bound or who live in far-flung places with few Jewish options, as well as members of the military or their spouses. They are professionals who can’t get away for traditional meetings, young mothers who can use the online support, snow birds who don’t want to join another sisterhood.
This sisterhood without borders is possible thanks in large part to new technologies and social media. With our education programs no longer limited to seminary campuses in Los Angeles and New York, the Women’s League website offers amazing opportunities for learning and expanding every woman’s personal Jewish growth. We look forward to new media opening a wide range of possibilities beyond the discussion groups we already host online. The latest offering, open to all members, is Women’s League Reads, an online book group whose inaugural title was Phyllis Chesler’s acclaimed An American Bride in Kabul.
Individual members join for a variety of reasons. For Lori Beth Susman, of Biloxi, Mississippi, individual membership lets her share in “all the good work that Women’s League does.” Lori Beth is hopeful that one day Biloxi might have its own sisterhood, but in the meantime, she is grateful to receive CJ Magazine, and news and updates from an internationally recognized organization as well as from her local region. For her, Women’s League “brings Judaism to women all over the country,” and keeps her connected with other Jewish women. For Judith Kranz individual membership is the best fit now that she is retired. She is very committed to Conservative Judaism and membership in Women’s League helps her maintain that connection.
Even in Manhattan, individual membership can be the right choice. Fanny Freund, a member of one of the oldest Conservative synagogues in New York City and a long-time supporter of Women’s League, wanted to maintain that link when her sisterhood became too small to be viable. She says individual membership won’t “make me poorer” and stays connected online and through her region’s Torah Fund events.
When dedicated Women’s League volunteer Terry Winston had to take a leave of absence from her many roles in the organization, she was very grateful to maintain an individual membership. For her, too, there was a need to belong. While she hopes to become involved with a sisterhood when in Florida, individual membership is the right choice when at home in Toronto.
Karen Gartner “believes in belonging.” Knowing that the organization is there and being part of something larger than herself are important to Karen. Similarly, Lisa King-Smith, of Lake Katrine, New York, finds that because of her connections, “wherever we go, we know somebody.” There is always a connection to share Shabbat. She adds, “You don’t get that anywhere else.” She benefits from the online discussion groups and finds inspiration at conferences and conventions – and so does her husband! He commented that it is awe-inspiring to be singing Birkat HaMazon with 800 people and discover that you are the only baritone.
As a Women’s League trainer, Sally Abbey touched the lives of many. But when she returned to her roots in Rhode Island after many years of living in Connecticut, she was disappointed to discover that there are no affiliated sisterhoods in the entire state. So today, as an individual member, Sally is able to maintain those connections forged over years.
Every member of Women’s League has a different story, but they all can have a voice in the expanding network of Conservative Jewish women. Women’s League perpetuates Conservative/Masorti Judaism in our homes and synagogues and in communities around the world. Joining is simple. Go to www.wlcj.org, and click JOIN. The cost of individual membership is $36. (Students and members of the military: $18; those 75 and older: $25) Membership in Women’s League also makes a meaningful gift to your daughters, sisters, friends.