Global voices of women to unite on Shabbat for Israel

An online women’s prayer group will be holding its first in-person event


Caroline Rigby (right) meeting (from left) Sara Radivan, Hanna Yaffe and Gila Ansell Brauner, other members of Global Women's Hallel, in Israel. Caroline was in Israel to discover more about her Jewish roots (Photo: Caroline Rigby)

At the start of the first Covid lockdown, the Global Women’s Hallel was established for women to feel engaged with Judaism while grappling with the demands of family and homeschooling.

After their first Zoom Hallel for Edgware, Stanmore and Mill Hill locals — a melodious service for Rosh Chodesh — co-founders Jane Myers and Sara Garfield decided to open up their events globally.

Four years later, the Global Women’s Hallel is holding its first in-person event on the weekend of March 8 and 9 — the Shabbat which has been designated by the Chief Rabbi as Shabbat for Israel.

Organised by Myers, Garfield  and the co-chair of Stanmore and Canons Park Synagogue, Jacqui Rudolph, it’s a collaboration between Edgware United’s TGIF, the Global Women’s Hallel and the Stanmore Women’s Tefillah Group.

Billed as an “uplifting weekend of women's prayer, song and friendship”, the weekend is also in honour of  International Women’s Day on March 8 and Rosh Chodesh Adar II on March 10.

Proceedings begin at with a women-only Kabbalat Shabbat service, followed by soup and kiddush; a Women’s tefillah group on Shabbat morning and on Sunday, there will be an in-person Hallel service with tea, coffee and breakfast pastries, which participants can also join on Zoom. 

The weekend will include guest speakers David Barr from Kibbutz Alumim and a survivor of the Hamas attack of October 7, and educator Rabbanit Surale Rosen from Jerusalem.

Myers said: “At a challenging time in Israel, this weekend is more important than ever to come together in prayer, song and friendship. Since the beginning of the conflict, we have been meeting [online] every single month, and we have speakers talking about the situation, giving us hope and sharing what's been going on.

"This will be a super occasion, where women will meet and spend time with other women from across the UK and those joining globally at Sunday's hybrid Hallel. Women are making an effort to come and stay for a beautiful Shabbat, and strangers are hosting strangers so it will be a special weekend of friendship.”

With bookings already coming in from as far away as Colchester and Devon, the organisers promise a “warm welcome” for everyone, whether they join for one, two or all three services. Giving women the opportunity to come together for prayer and song is “vital”, Myers said, adding: “My experience and many women's experience of being engaged and able to participate is quite limited.”

One of the women leading the psalms and songs during the Shabbat weekend is Caroline Rigby, who started exploring Judaism, Hebrew and shul music during the pandemic after discovering she was halachically Jewish. Rigby lives in Devon, and it will be her first Kabbalat Shabbat service.

“I'm very excited about it," said Rigby, for whom singing has always been a part of life. "I had no idea that Judaism involved so much music, so the singing aspect gives me a real connection.

“Discovering the monthly Hallel and joining with other Jewish women has just been amazing for me. Because I'm on my own in the countryside, not living Judaism all the time, it's kept me connected and increased my connection, so meeting in-person is going to be amazing. That I’m leading some of it is a huge thing for me and a great honour.”

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