Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

SPARK ignites empowerment for Orlando's Jewish women


Abby Nelson

Several participants of the SPARK Women's Retreat.

What do you get when 100 Jewish women spend the weekend together learning and laughing in luxury? A SPARK! The weekend of Feb. 24-26 was the first SPARK Women's Retreat, where all of the women experienced how to #BetheSpark. SPARK is the Women's Division of JOIN Orlando, and their mission is to engage, educate, enlighten, and empower every Orlando Jewish woman regardless of background or affiliation, through a variety of exciting programming, events, classes, and experiences.

"This event was designed to help the Jewish women in our community to relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect, both spiritually and socially," explained Sarah Gittleson, founding director of SPARK. "This Shabbat experience gave our participants the chance to take a break from 24/7 digital connectivity, by socially connecting with friends, old and new, engaging in meaningful discussions, and rediscovering who they really are as Jewish women, mothers, and wives."

Among some of the highlights of the weekend retreat were the in-depth lectures led by nationally recognized Jewish leaders Lori Palatnik and Yaffa Palti.

Palatnik is the founding director of the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project, as well as a Jewish educator, writer, and international speaker. Palti is a sought after public lecturer and singer/songwriter. She blends her messages and melodies together to deliver thought-provoking discussions. Event guests were engaged in lessons on topics such Understanding Yourself and Appreciating Others; Eliminating Worry, Fear, and Anxiety from Your Life; Achieving Happiness; and Overcoming Fear of Change.

In addition to gaining important insights from the guest speakers, participants enjoyed the beautiful amenities and gorgeous room of the Reunion Resort, where the retreat was held, along with endless amounts of scrumptious food by Shaike's Catering. There were morning exercise sessions with fitness guru Bethanne Weiss and yoga instructor Stacey Soll, a Jewish food demonstration and tasting led by Gitty's Gourmet owner Gitty Schepansky, as well as an inspirational message about reframing your life for positivity, from community member Rachel Slavkin. The highlight of the weekend came after a heartwarming sing-along Havdalah, when the ladies got up and danced for hours at the SPARK Dance Party and Celebration.

One retreat participant said, "I had a fantastic time at the retreat. I didn't know what to expect, but I walked away with so much reflection and self-development as a Jewish woman. It was nice to meet and reacquaint with so many other Jewish women. I am inspired."

SPARK plans on making the Women's Retreat an annual event, G-d willing. Until then, like SPARK's Facebook pages to stay up-to-date on the organization's latest programming and events, such as the monthly challah bakes and the weekly Learning and Lattes.

SPARK is the women's division of J.O.IN Orlando-the Jewish Outreach Initiative, an innovative and vital Orlando-based project. JOIN Orlando and SPARK facilitate continued growth and success of the Orlando Jewish community. JOIN Orlando is noncongregational, and endeavors to help all individuals attain a deeper relationship with their privileged heritage through Torah study, socio-religious events, and a connection to the land of Israel. SPARK And JOIN Orlando can be reached at office@JoinOrlando.org or 407-734-0190.


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