At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Fran Hersh and her son developed a new ritual.
As they cleared away breakfast and he opened his laptop to begin remote work, they would tune in to MoMENtum Men’s Chair and Trip Leader Charlie Harary’s daily livestream, The Daily Boost.
Covid concerns had temporarily closed her synagogue and Shabbat dinners had narrowed to immediate family only, “so I wasn’t getting that Jewish nourishment locally,” recalled Fran – but there was Momentum, with wisdom available at her fingertips.
Each morning, they listened to Charlie’s practical strategies for tackling the day and building resilience – topics that resonated with them both.
“I have the utmost respect for Charlie, he makes it easy to start the day with the right mindset – and it was such a beautiful way to bond with my son.”
There’s always room to grow
It was that same passion for Jewish learning that piqued Fran’s interest in Momentum in the winter of 2019.
Her life had always been infused with Judaism. “I grew up in an observant family, and my husband and I made our home a center of Jewish life for our children,” Fran said.
Still, she felt strongly that there was more to explore, more questions to ask. “There’s always room to grow. With Momentum, I felt that there was an opportunity to start a new journey of Jewish learning – and a new group of women with whom to take that journey.”
During her MOMentum Trip to Israel, her new cohort provided a welcome fresh perspective on the beauty of Jewish life.
“It was incredible to see my friends experience the wonder of Judaism, to join them as they lit Shabbat candles for the first time. So much good came from seeing that.”
Life through a different lens
Back home, Fran tackled life with renewed empathy.
“Instead of knee jerk reactions to difficult moments, I pause to ask, why did this person respond that way, or why is my kid struggling today? The word we often use in Jewish learning is ‘lens:’ How can I see through their lens to understand them better?”
She also found a liberating sense of positivity and calm. “I often remind myself that it’s not up to me, and that’s not a bad thing. I’ll do whatever I can do, and ultimately, It’s in God’s hands. I don’t have complete control.”
This mindset has helped Fran confront and overcome parenting challenges.
“Because of Covid, my youngest finished her final years of high school at the kitchen table, alone. She came to us and said, ‘I want to do a gap year in Israel.’ In the past, I would have said, ‘Absolutely not, you have to go to college.’”
But her daughter’s passion and commitment to the idea made her pause. She considered the problem through her daughter’s lens – and finally agreed.
“Now she’s in Israel, having the most amazing experience of her life.”
Jewish values are in her DNA
In Fran’s home, Shabbat is sacred – a time to release the tensions of the week, refocus, and reconnect.
“I love that time. We make sure everything is done, my husband makes a bracha for the kids, and we just enjoy each other’s company and play board games.”
Fran and her husband even began a new tradition as a family: Havdalah, the ceremony that marks the end of Shabbat. “Havdalah wasn’t a part of my childhood, and now it’s something we love to do. We regroup one last time before it’s off to the races again for another week.”
On those “off to the races” days, it is the glimmer of Shabbat ahead – and a solid foundation of Jewish values – that sustain her. Fran is an occupational therapist who works with seniors, a career that comes with its share of difficult moments.
“No matter what, I always treat my clients like I would my own parents: with respect and dignity, kavod. I suppose that’s how I was raised. It’s very Jewish, it’s in my DNA.”
Several of Fran’s children are now working towards their own careers in healthcare, education, and caregiving.
“One kid is a special education teacher, another also wants to work with children with disabilities,” said Fran. “Two of them teach Hebrew school. My daughter who decided to take a gap year in Israel is now an EMT, and volunteers with at-risk teens in Haifa.”
The Jewish wisdom that shapes her life – the values she inherited, and the lessons she has absorbed through her passion for Jewish learning – has impacted her children, too. According to Fran, “Each of my kids is so Jewish, in their own way.”
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