It’s 7 p.m. on a Sunday in Israel. As Adrienne Gold answers the phone, she is standing on the balcony of her Tel Aviv apartment, awaiting the sunset over the Mediterranean. She is anticipating going down to the street for a “sloppy, yummy shwarma” before getting a good night’s sleep so she can welcome 600 North American young Jewish mothers to Israel and give them the experience of their lives.
Gold estimates she’s led between 20 and 30 such trips sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project (JWRP) over the past 15 years.
JWRP leads highly subsidized eight-day trips to Israel for mothers of minor children, in collaboration with more than 200 organizations on six continents (nothing in Antarctica . . . yet). While JWRP was founded by an Orthodox woman, Lori Palatnik, its trips are for non-Shabbat observant women from all corners of the Jewish community. The idea is to introduce the beauty of Judaism through the Israel experience to these women who commit to continuing their Jewish journey with their local organizations.
Adrienne Gold is one of several JWRP trip leaders. Her own Jewish journey took her from being a Canadian fashion and beauty television personality to a teacher of Torah — although, by her own admission, she continues to be obsessed with shoes!
Gold was a fixture on Canadian television for 15 years as host of her own daily fashion and beauty program, and as a regular contributor on other shows. “I had a long and wonderful career in fashion and lifestyle media on daytime TV,” tells the IJN from her Tel Aviv balcony.
“Actually, it was the same market I am talking to these days.”
She’s modest about her fame: “In Canada, I was a big fish in a small pond. I did it for a lot of years and I loved it.”
Gold and her husband Jason Davis decided to send their two sons to a Jewish day school in Toronto, not because they were seeking an enhanced Jewish education for the kids but because it was better than the public schools.
“We were Jewishly ignorant, so we started to learn a little, and we both became compelled by all things Jewish.”
Gold was a fashionista and Davis had been a punk and new age rocker. “My husband went from air guitar to air shockeling,” she jokes.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Gold was on live television doing a show, “Canada AM” (like “Good Morning America”) when the planes went into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
“People were blaming Israel, and suddenly I had this clarity,” Gold recalls. “This was my Esther moment. I had to speak up.
“I got a lot of hate mail and my producer chastised me. I kept it up, though. I was not longer compelled by aesthetics but by the principle of meaning. I realized I was committing career suicide.”
Gold’s contract was coming to an end anyway and she was in her 40s. “I didn’t want to cling onto an industry that requires perpetual youth.”
So, Adrienne Gold followed her new passion, and hooked up with JWRP as she was a good speaker and an extrovert.
“I finally got a really good script — written by G-d,” she quips.
She also became a lecturer at Toronto’s The Village Shul, where she has informed and inspired people from across the Jewish spectrum for many years.
Gold began leading the JWRP trips. “I was rocking it and loving it,” she proclaims.
JWRP is a good fit for Gold because the organization promotes Jewish “unity without uniformity.” She loves reaching out to mothers of younger children and giving them “a set of spectacles through which to look at the world.”
Gold summarizes the JWRP rationale for taking these young mothers to Israel: “If we can impact the mother, she can impact her entire family. The family impacts the community, and the community can change the world through a renaissance of Jewish values.”
That said, there are also JWRP men’s trips.
The purpose of JWRP, Gold says, “is not to make people more religious. It is help them become more Jewishly engaged, however they do it.”
The JWRP trips are part of a curriculum that includes classes and activities before and after the trips with the partnering organizations in the participants’ hometowns. “We call it the Year of Growth, building on and concretizing what they learned on the trip.”
Adrienne Gold now lives half the year in Israel. When she’s not leading JWRP trips, she travels the world speaking on behalf of JWRP and teaching Torah. She will be the guest speaker at JRWP’s third annual unity celebration, Sunday, July 29, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Chabad JCC in Aspen. Information: jwrp.org/aspenunityevent.
As a leader of the trips to Israel, Gold makes sure there is always ample time for shopping and eating — “food and footwear,” as she puts it. “After all, I’m still a fashionista.”
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