Rosh Chodesh is a special time for women to celebrate. It is like a mini Rosh Hashanah, being the beginning of a new Hebrew month. Sue Zimmerman writes about an organisation that brings women together at the beginning of the Hebrew month.

On Rosh Chodesh Tevet, Thursday 19 December 2017, the last night of Chanukah, a substantial gathering of women enjoyed a special evening at Rebbetzin Sara Gutnick’s home. The group to which they belonged, the Rosh Chodesh Women’s Circle (RCWC) had won a grant of $1000 from Bendigo Community Bank. This was awarded, in the form of a large cardboard version of the cheque, to Rebbetzin Gutnick by Kate Ashmore, the bank’s representative. Kate, an attractive, dynamic young woman, then surprised us all with an impromptu speech whereby she revealed that she was, in fact, Jewish. The ladies were treated to a yummy supper of smoked salmon on latkes, salads, cakes and donuts. All eight candles of the chanukiah were lit by Rabbi Gutnick that prompted spontaneous singing from the women. I shed a tear as the singing sounded incredibly angelic. The unity of women and the simchah (happiness) of Chanukah combined to create something truly special. Such is the magic of evenings organised by the Rosh Chodesh Women’s Circle.

Rebbetzin Sara Gutnick created this special organisation to ensure that women celebrate Rosh Chodesh in style. She explains that women have a particular connection to Rosh Chodesh and they should be nurtured with simchah and inspiration at the beginning of each new month. This connection harks back to the episode of the Golden Calf in the Bible. When the men thought that Moses was not returning, they lost faith in G-d and created an idol to worship, but the women’s faith remained strong and they refused to donate their jewellery to create an idol. Hashem (G-d) rewarded the women with a special Yomtov, a time to wear new clothes, to rest from mundane chores, a time to gather together to relax and celebrate and to learn about the month ahead. In Kabbalah (Jewish mystical writings) renewal and the waxing and waning of the moon are also associated with women.

Karin Zafir, Vice President of the RCWC ponders what makes these functions so special:

Is it the warm welcome into someone’s home and the closeness and warmth the event engenders? Is it the inspiring dvar Torah [talk about the weekly portion read from the Torah] woven around the theme for the month, so familiar to some but new to others, making us feel like we are there when all of this is happening? Is it the wonderful themed supper that delights our senses each time? For me, it is each one of those things – but most of all it is hearing the story of the speaker! More often than not, we have not met before and I’m just overwhelmed by their achievements. That’s why I love being part of the RCWC and try to attend each event. It is an honour to be involved.

The Ellul supper with little tashlich bowls with fish in them (jelly and jelly candy fish), a king in the field cake, a shofar cake and sushi .

RCWC is creating a library of video recordings of the guest speakers’ stories from these gatherings. Although this is not RCWC’s only objective, it does take storytelling seriously. It is not surprising that a new project has emerged within the organisation to reach out to the elderly who wish to share their life stories with us. This new arm of the organisation is called ‘Linking the Generations – Through the Power of Story’.

As Rachel Ulanovsky, editor of the RCWC newsletter writes:

The Rosh Chodesh Women’s Circle is looking for volunteers to get involved at the grassroots level of our aged-care facility project. Our aim is to provide a platform and relaxed program for the grandmothers and great-grandmothers of our community to share their story. Imagine, if you will, an elderly lady sharing her story, while her children, grandchildren, friends and peers surround her, rapt in every word she says. That, together with light refreshments and an inspiring message for the Hebrew month in a warm and nurturing atmosphere, is a most wonderful way to spend an afternoon or mid-morning.

Your involvement can range from organising a speaker, videography, especially video editing, writing a dvar Torah or even facilitating the event as a program leader. If you are interested to find out more about participating in the RCWC affiliate groups, including the new venture that is reaching out to the elderly, or would like to attend a future Rosh Chodesh celebration please contact Rebbetzin Sara Gutnick for more information.

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