Written by: Dafnah Meron, HMI Colorado 2018
Although I grew up in an Israeli household and felt connected to Judaism as a kid, it wasn’t until my 30s that I learned about a special Jewish tradition called “Rosh Chodesh.” I never would have guessed that It would take a global pandemic, a total shut-down, and a desire to reconnect outside the four walls of my house to lead me toward this beautiful and connective tradition.
It was just a couple months into this new thing called quarantine when HMI sent out an email with an invitation to join a Zoom call to learn about an organization called At the Well (ATW) and experience a bit of what their well circles feel like. After watching ATW founder Sarah Waxman’s ELI Talk, about her discovery of Rosh Chodesh and her desire to support other women in gathering and connecting on their own journeys, I was interested and excited about being in a shared space with new faces.
I had heard of the monthly Jewish holiday of Rosh Chodesh to celebrate each new moon, and was always intrigued by the ritual of women coming together to connect about themes of the month, but I had never been a part of a Rosh Chodesh group myself. So, I didn’t know what to expect when I joined that initial call (with about 50 other HMI alumni), but what I ended up experiencing was this really meaningful, emotional, authentic connection, in a time when I was feeling so deeply disconnected.
Over the next few months, some of us on that call met again to speak more about forming an ongoing well circle and what that could look like with people scattered across the country. This was the first time we were trying a well circle on Zoom, instead of in-person! There were 9 of us who ultimately decided to give it a try, and we had our first virtual well circle gathering in August 2020. We were each coming to the space with individual hopes, struggles, curiosities and probably some apprehension, but my sense is there was always a shared desire for deeper connection to ourselves and each other through this somewhat unknown (or new to us) ancient Jewish ritual.
At each “circle,” all nine of us open the space by lighting the same fig-scented candle on screen, and then carving out time to share a little bit about what is going on in each of our lives. Over the last 2.5 years, as we’ve gotten to know each other more intimately, those updates have included weddings, pregnancies, and new jobs – but also loss and grief, frustrations and burn-out, and other struggles. One of the best parts of the circle is the hosting structure: each month (dictated by Judaism’s lunar calendar) two women volunteer to host together. Over the next 3-4 weeks, co-hosts comb through At The Well’s moon manuals and other resources and work together to come up with activities and an agenda for the circle. It gives you the opportunity to connect one-on-one with another woman, and because we each host a few times a year, we get to rotate and form bonds with all the women. It’s now been almost 2.5 years since our well circle started meeting (all 9 of us continue to gather virtually with each new moon) and in November 2022, we finally met in person for the first time at a retreat in New Mexico that we planned as a group.
Since the start of our well circle, my husband and I decided to move with our 1 year-old from Denver (where our HMI community was) to Western Massachusetts. We knew it was the right move for our family, but it wasn’t easy deciding to leave what had been our home and community, and we knew that even though we would try to stay in touch with friends from HMI, it wouldn’t be the same living across the country. And of course the truth is, it’s not. It was and still does feel sad to no longer live near our HMI cohort and go to meet-ups or holiday celebrations, and if not for this Well Circle, I think I would feel fairly disconnected from HMI as a whole. So, not only has my experience in the Well Circle been so meaningful on its own, it has also created this beautiful opportunity to connect with a different HMI community than the one my husband and I traveled to Israel with – a community that I continue to feel seen in as a Jewish woman in an interfaith marriage and feel supported by in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined when first applying to HMI.
I am so grateful to this Well Circle, and the relationships it’s given me with eight other women across the country. It’s also strengthened my relationship with myself and with Jewish traditions, allowing me a few hours a month to be in a space where I can reflect and connect.
If you’d like to learn more about starting or joining a Well Circle, please click here to submit our interest form!