Life & Culture

'I run a festival that Jewish women from all walks of life can go to'

Meet the founder of HerSpace - a day of arts, talks, culture and retail therapy for Jewish women


For Michelle Stimler Morris, creativity and charity are so deeply embedded in her DNA that it was only a matter of time before she would find a way to bring the two together.

The merger has resulted in HerSpace, a day of arts, culture, talks and retail therapy, aimed at Jewish women across the religious spectrum, which will raise money for Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA), the charity that supports Jewish women and children affected by domestic and sexual violence.

Morris, 32, who exudes a can-do attitude, describes the event as “a feminist passion project — a celebration of British Jewish female entrepreneurialism and creativity”.

It is also an opportunity to champion creative Jewish women whose religion can be a barrier, says the mum of four from Hendon. And she should know.

With a passion for the arts, Morris studied journalism and photojournalism at university before taking numerous creative courses and gaining a certificate in screenwriting.

She told the JC: “Women in the creative industry often find that having a Jewish name or leaving early for Shabbat works against them, so HerSpace is a space that actually works for them.”

Partnering with JWA — which will get a portion of money from the sales of clothing, homeware, food and artwork from the 30-plus vendors and all the takings from the ticket sales — was “a very natural choice for us because of the #MeToo movement, the murder of Sarah Everard and the skyrocketing of abuse during lockdown”, says Morris.

“Unfortunately, I personally know people who have needed the charity’s support.”

During the day, there will be a range of talks and panels, including one on bringing up boys and another on nurturing healthy relationships.

She adds: “It’s really important to raise awareness of what abuse actually is. A lot of people think it is just physical and don’t understand the other elements.”

When HerSpace first launched in early March 2020, it attracted nearly 500 women. Its success led to calls for an online festival during Covid, but Morris remained steadfast in her conviction that HerSpace had to be experienced in person, so waited until lockdowns had lifted to organise another event.

“Things can’t exist purely in a digital realm. In person, there is an energy and a spirit that you just don’t get on screen," she says.

But she has embraced the virtual world when it comes to social media, posting a “psychedelic” reel on Instagram unlike any other promotional material for a Jewish women’s charity day.

She says: "I had envisioned this Blair Witch Project-type teaser.”

The reel was created by Morris’ younger sister Hannah, which brings us back to Morris’ DNA. The sisters’ creative genes undoubtedly come from their mother, theatre writer and lyricist Estee Stimler.

And to prove the point, halfway through the interview, Morris pulls out an elaborately decorated photo album, made by her. She said: "Mum’s very creative, very OTT, very extra. We’ve got a lot of incredible women on the committee and she’s also helping.”

Her parents’ commitment to charitable causes also rubbed off on their eldest daughter. “My parents were constantly having charity meetings downstairs in the dining room. It’s cute because that’s what my kids are seeing with me now," Morris went on.

Does she see any conflict between being an Orthodox Jewish woman and a feminist, the word she uses to describe the festival?

The question is met with an emphatic “No!” — and that her Jewish identity doesn’t depend on women playing a central role in synagogue. “I studied at Michlalah, a great seminary, during my gap year in Jerusalem.

“I love studying and I’m very into Jewish philosophy. There’s so much more to my spirituality and Judaism than the mechanics of shul," she says.

She adds that her husband “considers himself a feminist” and that she has witnessed a generational shift when it comes to gender roles. “I find the older generation generally looks at ours and thinks: ‘Why is he coming home at 5.30 to bath the kids?’”

It is Morris’ hope that HerSpace will unite all Jewish women, regardless of age or level of observance.

She concluded: “It’s for any Jewish woman between the age of 20 to 80, who is interested in contemporary culture. We want people to feel the breadth of how many likeminded Jewish women there are out there.”

HerSpace is on June 8. For more information and to book, go to:

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