I grew up in a household with almost no Jewish atmosphere. My father, who was from Russia, was very busy being Mr. American. I knew that I was Jewish but that was the extent. Shabbat wasn’t celebrated, nor major holidays observed. Our cultural identity was American, fully. It was all I knew and I did not question it. 

As a teenager, one of my friends invited me to a meeting of a club she was starting.  I did not know at the time, but the club was Junior Hadassah.  I returned home to my parents stating that I discovered that we were part of a big family–the Jewish people–and that we had a homeland–Israel.  I even told my parents that I wanted to visit Israel.  I started attending services with my friends and even conducted a Passover Seder that year.  My parents decided I had become a zealot. Despite this, I continued learning about my Jewish identity and cultivated my own Jewish American identity.    

Because I did not have Shabbat experiences in my home as a child, they became very special to me. I loved partaking in them at our Junior Hadassah conventions. They became a special part of my world that I never knew I needed.  It was a very spiritual and inclusive experience for me.  Although at the beginning, I did not have a clue about Shabbat, I came to truly embrace what it meant to me and what it means to the Jewish people. To know that my family (the Jewish people) all over the world are having the same experience was truly a magical discovery for me. We may all speak different languages but the Hebrew in the Shabbat service unites us all.

When I served as a chair for Young Judaea, (a Zionist youth movement embracing Jewish diversity under the umbrella of Hadassah), I spent a great deal of time at our summer camps around the country. Once again, Shabbat was made very special for me and for all the campers.  My eyes would always fill with tears as we came together, as a community for Shabbat. Many campers would tell me that this experience was so unique for them because they did not have it in their own homes. I shared my history with them and that it is possible to change and bring back this shared experience to their own families. 

Later on, as I raised my own family, and as I watch my children raise theirs, Shabbat became very special to us. This special time to rest, reflect and come together as a family has been one of the most poignant parts of discovering my Jewish identity. This upcoming Shabbat is especially near to my heart, since Hadassah was founded by a group of strong women Zionists over 100 years ago during Purim. Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat that ushers in Purim, reminds us of the power of speaking up for what you believe in, even when it is the hardest thing to do. It speaks to the strength and courage of Esther (Hadassah in Hebrew). 

This Friday, I will delight in lighting the Shabbat candles with my family and telling them the story of brave Esther, and how our family Shabbat traditions reignited because of a chance Junior Hadassah meeting that I attended. 

Judy Shereck is the Coordinator of the Programming, Advocacy, and Zionist Education Division of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. 


  • Judy Shereck of Montvale, New Jersey, is the Coordinator of the PRAZE Division and a member of the Honorary Council of Hadassah. She is in the Volunteer Operations Committee and is a member of the Young Judaea Scholarship Committee. She was a member of the National Board and the Executive Committee of Hadassah.  She is the immediate past National Secretary. She previously served as National Chair, Zionist Affairs and the Metro Area Organization Chair in the Member & Unit Services Division.  She is a former National Vice President and is past Chair of Israel, Zionist and International Affairs and past Chair of Jewish/Zionist Education in the Executive Division. Judy also served as National Young Judaea Coordinator in the Young Judaea Division, Chair of Young Judaea in the Development Department, National Young Judaea Camps Chair, and as Chair of Volunteer/Staff Advocate in the Administration and Finance Division. She represents Hadassah at the World Zionist Organization (Va’ad Ha Poel meetings) and is a past treasurer and a current board member of the American Zionist Movement.  She is co-president of the WZO faction Confederation/Hadassah and also a liaison to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors. Judy has held numerous board positions in the Northern New Jersey Region including Membership Coordinator, Area Vice President, and Spring Conference Chair. Judy was President of the Northern New Jersey Region of Junior Hadassah, Chair of the Hadassah Zionist Youth Commission of New Jersey, a member of the Women’s Division of the United Jewish Community of Bergen County and Chair of Art of Our Times.  She is also past President of the Association of Jewish Sponsored Camps.  Judy was a member of the board of directors of the Jewish National Fund. She has led six Family Missions to Israel; she also led the I.Z.A.I.A mission this last year.  Judy was a member of the Board of Friends of the Israel Scouts.   She taught Spanish at Frisch Yeshiva High School in Paramus, New Jersey. Judy and her husband Barry, are founders in the Young Judaea Division and have two children who were both active in Young Judaea.  Their daughter is a former National President of Young Judaea.