Connecting Mind Body and Soul
Avoda Shebaguf was established in 2008 by five women in Jerusalem who were looking for a safe space to grapple with issues of feminine Jewish identity in Israel. These modern-religious women felt a strong sense of misalignment and tension between their minds, bodies and souls – they soon came to understand that they were not alone. It became clear that women from all walks of life, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds and religious observance were looking for a constructive, nurturing and non-threatening environment to deal with these sensitive issues. Since then, the organization has evolved to include secular, traditional and religious women from the entire religious spectrum.
Our vision is to facilitate a process of personal growth and development for women whilst generating a shift in consciousness, especially within religious circles, with the aim of creating a healthier, synergic balance between mind, body and soul.
The Body-Soul Empowerment Program for Women is a one-year study program and has four complementary tracks:
Hassidut classes: we delve into spiritual consciousness based on various Hassidic teachings.
Femininity awareness: we integrate knowledge and process - study of anatomy and physiology alongside fertility and contraception, pregnancy and birth, body awareness, sexuality and more.
'Yemima' studies: dealing with our mental world as nurtured by Hassidut, participants learn how to develop emotional independence and stability, impacting the psyche as well as the spirit and the body.
Movement and Yoga: women undergo a year-long process of working with their body without words, making their way to reconciliation with the body, for the sake of independent and free movement.
The program's staff consists of eight instructors bringing a variety of perspectives and perceptions of the spiritual experience, exploring both the beauty and complexity of Jewish thought with respect to the role of the body and femininity.
These women are then able to become agents of change not only in their immediate circles but also help to create change in the discourse in their own communities and in society at large. Most of the participants are educators, community coordinators or key figures in various organization
In addition to the year-long programs, Avoda Shebaguf operates a number of other programs, retreats, sessions and learning groups throughout the country. Highlights include:
National Bat-Mitzvah Program for Mothers and Daughters:
This program includes a learning component, a community service element and a series of experiential programs on female and feminine leadership. Interweaved into the program are several elements relating to the body and how we relate to it at this important period both physiologically and spiritually.
Advanced Beit Midrash: brings together a select group of learned women with proven leadership capabilities to learn and do research on the female archetypes in the Zohar (Kabbalistic work). This program is led by Dr. Shifra Assouline–Regev, a well-known and highly respected researcher from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Dr. Sivan Har-Shefi a poet and literary lecturer at the Herzog Institute. The program is privileged to benefit from the active engagement and guidance of Rabbanit Hadassah Fruman, a leader and learned scholar in her own right and the wife of Rabbi Menachem Fruman (Z’’l).
Public Lectures across the Country:
Avoda Shebaguf offers a popular lectures series focusing on important and controversial issues, questions and combines text study, lectures and discussion circles. Some of these issues include for instance, the use of contraception from explored from halachic, psychological and emotional perspectives; how to bring up children with a healthy attitude towards sexuality during puberty and adolescence; intimacy and sexuality in the context of couple hood etc. Both men and women, especially in religious circles (though certainly not exclusively) are seeking information, ways of coping, and support in dealing with these difficult questions. Some are lucky enough to have access to relevant information in a supportive environment. However, many get partial and occasionally even distorted information. In this series of evening lectures we chose professional figures that are able to bridge the gap between the great need and the common disinformation in a way that can be well received in all sectors. Dealing with these subjects in a healthy and open manner is sorely needed as demonstrated by the hundreds of participants who attend the numerous sessions held every year.
Ritual Bath & Immersion: a change in discourse & legislation.
The issue of mikvaot (ritual baths) is a source of great anxiety for many. The state of mikva'ot in Israel, both in terms of the physical conditions of the structures as well as in the way the experience of women who use them, leaves much to be desired. In collaboration with several other groups and organizations, Avoda Shebaguf has been instrumental in bringing this issue to the forefront of the agenda of policy makers. One of the first initiatives was to organize a conference bringing together stakeholders in the field in order to strategize on how to best deal with this issue on multiple fronts. That is, both with respect to the personal experience of women as well as with respect to legislative and policy questions.
Yearly Retreat for Women:
This is a unique 2 day seminar that combines learning sessions, text study, lectures, discussions and work with the body. Every year, between 80 to100 secular, traditional and religious women (representing the entire spectrum of religious observance) come together to explore challenges relating to the body and Jewish femininity - drawing on ancient texts and works by contemporary thought leaders. Participants exercise their bodies, though yoga and dance, their minds, through insightful and dynamic discussion and debate and their souls through study of chasidut and the Zohar, meditation.
This retreat is Avoda She Baguf’s flagship program and is gaining popularity with every passing year. Spots are reserved months in advance of the Spring event. For more information: email@example.com.
Funding and Sustainability:
In 2012, Avoda Shebaguf registered as a non-profit organization (Amuta) in Israel. We are proud to share that we strive to finance at least 50% of our activities through participant fees. The annual budget for 2018 is $100,000. We are reliant on the support of friends of Avoda Shebaguf from around the world as well as program alumni to complement our efforts.
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