In a near miraculous occurrence, on February 26th 2019, over 20,000 women in over 100 Geula Gatherings around the world got together to daven for Geula. This type of gathering, created by women, is unprecedented, since Miriam leading the women in dance at Yitziat Mitzraim. The whole purpose of these events were for women to come together, not just to cry out to Hashem, but to sing to Hashem in yearning for the Geula. This was something completely new, totally uniting, and absolutely amazing. Here is a first-hand report of what it was like to be a part of this incredible movement:
Even Better Together:
Personal reflections on the recent “Geula Gatherings”
by Chumie Jacobson
It was a seemingly random Thursday morning in early February when my friend and colleague, Henya, called me and said “Chumie, have you heard about the Geula gatherings? On February 26th, thousands of women all over the world will be gathering to daven, sing and dance, and praise Hashem in the ways of Miriam Haneviah in yearning for the Geula. It’s becoming really big and you need to get Ner Echad involved.”
I was put in touch with Rivka Malka Perlman, a unique transformational coach and motivational speaker. She explained that the initiative had blossomed out of nowhere, as much of a surprise to her as anyone else. A 7-year-old video of her calling women to unite for an event on February 26, 2012 in Baltimore had ended up on WhatsApp (undated) and women were responding to it now, asking if they too could have such events in their cities! In the past couple of weeks, hundreds of women from all over were volunteering their time and talents to make this happen. “It’s time we finally unite” was the message I was hearing loud and clear.
I explained to Rivka Malka that Ner Echad is all about uniting Jewish women of all backgrounds from all over the world. (Ner Echad is a simple, automated, and powerful system which joins women together as partners in the Erev Shabbos Mitzvos of candle lighting, charity, and prayer.) Initially, Rivka Malka responded that while it sounded like a beautiful idea, she wanted to keep the event focused on women only, not make it about any groups or organizations. But then she thought about it and said, “The truth is, I just love the unifying message Ner Echad brings to the world. It is so exemplary of Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, a”h, for whom Ner Echad is dedicated. Also, Rabbi Weinberger, shlita, from Aish Kodesh, who is supporting the Geula Gathering initiative, has been very emphatic that we must connect these events to Shabbos, so Ner Echad is actually the perfect conduit to carry on the tremendous unity that we’re fostering week after week. I love it. Let’s do it!”
Within minutes I was talking to Liz Schwartz, an interior decorator from the Five Towns, who, when I mentioned Ner Echad, told me that she’s a Baalas Teshuva and candle lighting with Ner Echad was one of the first things she took on. How moving! Liz was volunteering to help put together the videos for these events. We coordinated about how to incorporate Ner Echad so the women could learn about it and sign up to carry on this unity every week. Liz then quickly added me to two WhatsApp group chats of organizers and got me up to speed.
The next two weeks passed in a flurry of excited activity. I sent Liz the Ner Echad videos and materials. I was floored by their willingness to include any of this. Normally, events are very protective of their ‘brand’. But I soon realized that I was dealing with a whole new level of l’sheim shamayim, greater than I had ever previously encountered.
Being on the chat of organizers (“It’s Geula NOW”) was a non-stop 24-hour wellspring of inspiration. Every single day, a new person would join the chat and say, “We’ve decided to do an event in Berlin, who can send us what we need?” These messages were always answered in seconds by someone willing to help: “I will, what’s your email address?”,
And that was another thing. Even though this was a very “woman-centric” movement, with women constantly posting about different meforshim and shiurim touting the power of women and our role in the messianic era, everything was run according to Daas Torah. Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, shlita, was the presiding Rabbi over the Geula Gatherings, providing constant feedback and guidance. There were many other Haskamos as well, including Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, shlita, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, shlita, Rabbi Avraham Sutton, shlita, Rabbi Doniel Katz, shlita, and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, shlita.
The women were so excited when we got a video of Rabbi Pessin, shlita, approaching Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita, explaining how the women were gathering to sing and dance, just like the righteous women Miriam led, in yearning for the Geula. Rabbi Pessin explained to Rav Kanievsky that the Geula Gatherings had partnered with Ner Echad, the organization created in his wife’s memory, and were seeking his blessing. Rav Kanievsky gave a bracha for the initiative and said that to hasten the Geula, women should complete Sefer Tehillim ten times. From the women’s reaction to receiving Rav Kanievsky’s bracha you’d think we’d won the lottery!
The level of camaraderie amongst these very diverse woman totally warmed me. I ended up in private conversations with many of them, either helping them create a flyer for their city, arranging to get the Ner Echad Nishmas booklets delivered to them, or countless other little things, and I got to see the true cross section of amazing women I was dealing with. These were also extremely busy people! Most had jobs and children. Some were very young and some were grandmothers already, but everyone had so much shared passion. You’d think we were a long-standing club and we’d known each other forever. Here I was, in Brooklyn, chatting with women in Paris, Texas, San Francisco, Johannesburg, and Manchester. Some of these women seemed strictly ultra-orthodox (they had lots of questions about the Haskama of Rav Chaim, etc.), while others seemed more modern or just starting out on their Jewish journey. Nevertheless, all were equally yearning to unite with their Jewish sisters everywhere. All were earnestly looking to help one another pull off this incredible feat.
Here’s the real kicker: We didn’t charge admission to the events! All the events were free of charge to those that attended. Everything was created out of thin air and miracles happened. Fortunately, people in various communities were excited to help by providing rental hall and/ or advertising space for free. Photography services were also donated. Women worked tirelessly to find sponsors to cover additional costs. Over and over again women reported how “it’s all just coming together, it’s unbelievable!” There were hurdles, yet the woman supported each other and provided endless chizuk and advice. Also fascinating were the various styles of events in the different communities. Some focused on the tambourines and the music playlist. Some focused solely on the davening. Many lined up their own speakers and entertainers in addition to the video presentation that was being played. Each brought their own flavor, but all had the same message: the time has come. It’s time to unite!
Those last few days leading up to the event were unbelievable. More and more cities were jumping on the bandwagon and there was so much left to do. At this point, I was also on the Whatsapp chat organizing the Marine Park, Brooklyn event, where Rivka Malka was going to be in attendance and TorahAnytime was providing the livestreaming. Two nights before the event, I was busy working on some last-minute flyers for cities that had just decided to join. My ten-year-old daughter Esther saw how busy I was and asked “Ma, are they going to be disappointed if the Geula doesn’t come on Tuesday?” Gulp. Hashem gave me the words, and they came right out without hesitation. “Esther, these events are about bringing the Geula closer. And one way or another, I’m sure that that is exactly what we are doing.” I also told her about the need for everyone to strive towards their personal Geula. We spoke about how everyone has their own trials and redemptions, how each of us can get lost in our own heads or stuck in our troubles, and how connection, true connection, can lift us out of that. I hoped that it was enough for her and told her she could come to the event and see for herself.
The day before the event, we got some pictures on the chat from the gathering in Moscow which had been held one day early due to scheduling issues. Seeing those women dancing with tambourines and davening the same tefilos was beyond inspiring. Women started posting links to articles that were being written all over about these events. Somehow, this had taken on a life of its own. We were all so excited to see it through. We were energized. We were ready. In the hours leading up to the event, we were treated to pictures and clips from the gatherings happening in earlier time zones. Hundreds of women gathered in Jerusalem across from the Kotel, davened at Kever Rochel, sang together in South Africa and Paris. It was awesome. This was building up to a peak of excitement on an international scale and we all felt it.
Finally, sitting at the event itself was surreal. There were stations set up for after the davening. Some events had challah baking, tambourine decorating, learning, and more. There was a vibe of comfortable happiness in the air, not typical of an “event.” I invited my sister in-law and my mother in-law to join us, and as my Esther and I were taking our seats my sister in-law looked around and asked, “So I’m trying to figure out, who is this crowd? Like, what ‘type’ is this?” I looked around and with deep satisfaction noticed that for the first time in my 10 years in Brooklyn, I didn’t see a “crowd” or a “type” at all. It was just Jewish women. About 250 of them would be my best guess. 250 Jewish women yearning for the Geula. THAT’S. ALL. Then came my mother in-law’s questions: “So, like, who is behind this? What organization is this? What’s it for?” No one. Everyone. For Geula. THAT’S. ALL.
The video came on. Positivity. Encouragement. Rivka Malka was all joy. Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi reminded us of the power of prayer that women specifically have. Then I hid in my seat as my face appeared (way too large) on the screen talking about Ner Echad. “It’s super simple,” I heard myself say (oh dear, who says that on an event video?!). “You’ll get a name of a fellow member to have in mind each week and automatically donate one dollar all together.” My phone started blowing up with texts. “Hey, I just saw you on TorahAnytime at the Geula Gathering. My sister in Passaic texted me: “We have 150 women here, it’s so nice!” My mom in
Boca Raton was sending pictures of 50 or so retirement-age ladies dancing with tambourines. My sister in Lakewood said, “There are at least 800 women here! In the 27 years I’ve lived in Lakewood I have *never* been to an event like this. Who are all these women? What made them all come out here on a weeknight? Not for their school, not to daven due to a tragedy, not to raise money for an organization…. Just to come together and daven and sing- wow!”
The davening started. Someone had composed stirring background music specifically for this night. We read from our prepared booklet. We cried out. “Hashem, we have gathered. We have united. We have yearned and we are ready!” There was palpable connection to every woman around the world who is doing this same thing, at this same moment. With one united message, we raised our voices as one. When we finished with a resounding SHEMA YISROEL HASHEM ELOKEINU HASHEM ECHAD, my daughter, with the tefilah booklet covering her face, cried. She cried in a way that the older, jaded women among us only wished we could. She cried for all of us. After that, energized on our “connection high,” we rotated around the room to the different booths and activities. Then we sang and danced. I danced with my daughter as if I were fifteen years younger. The special evening culminated with an intimate kumzitz on the floor. This is not me. I am a grown up. I don’t sit on the floor and sing, much less put my hands around strangers and sway. But there I was, as if there was never a more obvious thing to do.
Before leaving, I told Rivka Malka that my sister in Lakewood had told me that since there was such a large group at her location, the entire Tehillim was completed ten times in under 7 minutes. My sister texted “We watched a video of the Gadol Hador telling us to say Tehillim ten times, and on the spot, we were able to accomplish it. It was an incredible feeling!” Rivka Malka looked like she was going to cry with joy. I had nearly cried telling her.
The next morning, I woke up to see that women from every corner of the globe had signed up for Ner Echad. More pictures and reports came flooding in. So many event leaders telling us, with flushed excitement, that they’d gotten a far bigger turnout than expected. Someone started putting together the numbers. Over an estimated 20,000 women had gathered. Two days after the event, Shoshana Steiner from Baltimore said, “this entire thing sprouted and became a worldwide event in just 33 days. Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students died over a period of 33 days due to not treating each other with proper respect. And in these 33 days of
unprecedented love and kindness, an estimated 24,000 (if you include the live streaming) women united to bring the Geula. Could this be a Tikun? We cannot know, but the Koach of Achdus that every woman put forth to create the multitude of beautiful international events certainly shows us what we can do when we unite.
Since then new initiatives have sprung up – a gathering of children is being formed. The inspiration continues to grow. I reflect on how late on the night of the event, after coming home, my ten year old sleepily mumbled “Ma, thank you for bringing me. This was the most special, meaningful night of my life. And don’t worry, those weren’t sad tears, they were meaningful tears.” I tucked her decorated tambourine under her arm. I worried she was thinking “But did we bring the Geula?” I think of how earnestly she cried. How joyfully she danced. Oh sweetie, if you only knew the Geula we brought!
To join Ner Echad, connecting in our untied candle lighting Mitzvos each week, visit
http://www.nerechad.org or call 844-NER-ECHAD
To sign up for information about future Geula Gathering events, (there is one going on now for
children!) register at http://www.geulagatherings.com