Sister Spotlights
5 MIN. READ

Caring for one generation and educating the next

Starting out on a Jewish journey can be intimidating. It’s not always clear where to begin: What books might you read? Which traditions can you incorporate into your day? Whose challah recipe should you try first?

For Hilary Dworkin, her Jewish journey began with a siddur.

During her MOMentum Trip to Israel in 2014, Hilary’s Community Leader, Miri Walls Schick, gifted new prayer books to each sister. Hilary opened hers to find that her name was inscribed on the cover.

As she flipped through the siddur’s pages, she was stunned.

“I felt, for the first time, that Judaism was mine,” said Hilary. “I couldn’t have planned it, and yet, that moment has driven everything else I’ve done since.”

A calling to caregiving

Hilary’s Momentum experience brought her to “a whole new level of community involvement and spiritual involvement” in Jewish life.

“Now, I have so many teachers, spiritual leaders, and connectors to my Judaism,” said Hilary. Among them are Momentum community members like Miri and Elissa Felder, Momentum’s Providence Community Leader who Hilary met in a hotel lobby during her first Momentum Trip – and who has been her partner in Torah ever since.

Other sources of inspiration for Hilary include Adrienne Gold Davis, Momentum’s Director of Experience and Engagement; Mendel and Sara Bluming, the rabbi and rebbetzin of Chabad of Potomac; and friends in the world of Jewish philanthropy.

Momentum has also changed the course of her career.

When Hilary returned home from Israel, she knew her next steps needed to hold deep meaning and purpose. She found that purpose as a caregiver.

“I feel so strongly about Holocaust education,” said Hilary. “I’ve always been drawn to the stories of survivors. And I feel that when I walk into the museum, I’m transformed. In a way, I’m a vessel to help tell their stories.”

It isn’t always an easy job. She is privy to some of the most difficult moments in a person’s life, but cannot turn away – she has an obligation to provide help and comfort. “I had a few clients who were incredibly special, and I stayed with them through their death,” said Hilary. “It was hard, but it was a very powerful experience.”

During the toughest moments, she often thinks of something Lori Palatnik, Momentum’s Founding Director, said during her MOMentum Trip: “We are spiritual beings in physical bodies.”

One client, a woman who Hilary met through the Chabad community, lived by that wisdom more than anyone else she has met.

“I have never seen emunah (faith) like hers before,” said Hilary. “She was facing her own death, but she wasn’t afraid. She would pray and read Tehillim (Psalms) and she never had a moment of fear or pain. It was the real deal, and I never would have met her, I never would have been in that situation to learn from her, if I hadn’t gone on my MOMentum Trip.”

Educating the next generation

Hilary’s calling to help others extends beyond her work as a caregiver.

As a docent at the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum in Washington, DC, she ensures that the stories of those who experienced the Shoah (Holocaust) are preserved – and that the next generation never forgets.

“I feel so strongly about Holocaust education,” said Hilary. “I’ve always been drawn to the stories of survivors. And I feel that when I walk into the museum, I’m transformed. In a way, I’m a vessel to help tell their stories.”

Each time Hilary visits the museum, she notices the architecture – steel and brick, a stark difference from the bright limestone of other DC museums – and takes note of the startling quiet. “You feel removed from the world. You can’t see or hear the city anymore. You can just see the sky.”

The architects who designed the museum turned to survivors, who told them that The Nazis could take their bodies, their dignity, even their humanity – but they couldn’t take their souls, their faith. “For many survivors, looking toward the sky reminded them of that fact,” said Hilary.

She considers the Holocaust Museum not just a center for learning, but a place that holds deep spiritual significance.

“In Judaism, there are places that we consider holy – like the Kotel, like our shuls – and the museum is a holy place,” said Hilary. “It holds so much power, and so much pain.”

Making Shabbat special for the next generation

Hilary feels especially connected to her spirituality and Jewish life during Shabbat. “Shabbat keeps me engaged, even when I drift away from everything else,” said Hilary.

For Hilary, Shabbat might mean attending shul for services, or studying the parsha of the week – and, of course, no Shabbat is complete without food.

On Friday afternoons, Hilary and her fiance, Norman, head out to visit his family for Shabbat dinner. They spend the evening with their grandchildren, telling stories, answering curious questions about Jewish life, and baking challah together.

“Now, because we’re teaching our grandkids, we try to make it very special and memorable – something that they look forward to every week.”

In recent years, Hilary and her two daughters have created a new Shabbat tradition, too. Although they live far apart, every Friday evening just before sundown, they connect over the phone so Hilary can give them a Shabbat blessing.

“They both have super busy jobs, but they always try to reach me before Shabbat arrives,” said Hilary. “I give them the ‘official’ blessing, and then a special one of my own. It’s a small thing, but I never, ever miss it.”


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