When Michelle Bar Av first applied for a MOMentum Trip, she was put on the waiting list. Michelle was disappointed, but a friend told her, “It just isn’t your time. When it’s your time, you’ll know.” Soon after, Michelle’s youngest daughter was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and Michelle spent the following year shuttling her daughter to doctors’ appointments and nursing her back to health. Two years later, Michelle’s daughter was in remission, and Michelle reapplied for the MOMentum Trip. This time, she was accepted.
We spoke to Michelle, a mother of two teenage daughters in Reisterstown, Maryland, about weathering life’s challenges and staying positive for our children.
Why did you decide to travel to Israel with the JWRP?
When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer and we found ourselves surrounded by children with cancer, I stopped believing in G-d. But then Chai Lifeline, a Jewish organization that supports families with children battling cancer, brought us games and food and sent my daughter to a camp for children with cancer. I felt like Johns Hopkins Medical Center took care of my daughter’s body, but G-d took care of our souls. When my daughter was in remission, I knew that it was time for me to travel to Israel with the JWRP. After such a challenging experience, I was ready to thank G-d and reawaken my soul.
Tell us about a trip highlight.
Visiting the Kotel was magnificent. Together with my JWRP sisters, we approached it while singing songs. I hadn’t visited the Kotel since I was 14, and to be able to come back as a mother who was so thankful that her child was alive was incredibly moving. It was a gift to thank G-d and feel all the pain and fear that I’d experienced during those past two years wash away at the Kotel.
What advice can you give to mothers who may be experiencing challenging times?
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to connect to others. In our darkest hours, I always found comfort in our Jewish community, which made sure that our home was filled with food, games, and love. We never felt like we were alone. Stay connected to your community. They will give you the strength and resilience to deal with life’s challenges.
How can mothers support their children during difficult experiences?
Be there unconditionally for your children. Hold them, love them, and stay positive. Show your children that no matter what they’re going through, everything will be okay