What we are

SVIVAH is a women-designed, women-run, women-centered community dedicated to exploring, designing, and discovering a more nourishing, inspiring, and connected Jewish communal experience for women. The purpose of “community” is to make us stronger, nurture our values, show us where we belong, inspire and enable us to achieve more than we can alone. It is time for women to ensure that our Jewish community fills these universal communal needs for ourselves. As an inclusive, women-only space in the Jewish community, SVIVAH serves as a training ground, a safe space for skill-building and exploration, a “dugout” to empower women to be at their best when they go back out on the “playing field” of our professional and social spheres. SVIVAH is committed to creating communal conversations and support for women’s health, wealth, spiritual, professional, and personal empowerment as a vehicle for strengthening us as individuals and making us more powerful as a collective. It is a space for meaningful interactions with like-minded, like-hearted individuals and an opportunity to be strengthened by what we have in common, while growing from the ways we differ. Let us not waste the incredible strength and value of our diverse, multigenerational Jewish womanhood. Women are strengthened by each other; the Jewish community will be better for our strength.

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Of us. By us. For us.

In an ever-increasingly egalitarian global society, there is need for a women-only space for Jewish women to convene, connect, and build confidence through community. There is proven scientific benefit to women connecting meaningfully with other women. Neurologically, women benefit from the community of other women – women who share their values and life-experience. We want to invest in connections built on shared experience rather than common demographics or location. We want to widen the pipleline to the bounty of community resources intended to help us live our strongest lives. In times that are increasingly fraught by “the plague of loneliness”, lack of connection, limited time, why not maximize the purposefulness of our Jewish community and its value to its women? Women are stronger with community – let’s give it to them.

 

OUR ORIGINS

SVIVAH launched in December 2018 as a pilot in the greater Washington DC area, with a goal of bringing women together over shared values and shared experiences across communities, while also widening the pipeline to the available resources, services, and programmatic content intended to support our strongest Jewish lives. In its community-building phase, SVIVAH attracted an audience of over 400 women ranging in ages, locations, and affiliations. Organizational partnerships continue to grow as agencies, in partnership with SVIVAH, think creatively about providing valuable content in a women-only context.

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In our first months, SVIVAH offered access to varied female pastoral caregivers, fostered deep connections over the universal experience of transition and loss, inspired a communal approach towards amplifying and validated women’s anger, and even experimented with comedic improv. Our programs are designed by our community of women and engage multiple service providers, agencies, and educators dedicated to women’s wellness, spiritual nourishement, and empowerment. We are creating meaningful connections across generations and affiliations. We are facilitating conversations about the lives of women that need to be addressed as a collective. We are destigmatizing life-moments of challenge by reframing them as opportunities for tremendous growth and communal strength. We are committed to valuing the work of our educators with appropriate compensation. We built HerTorah, a program dedicated to women’s voices and perspectives in Jewish scholarship. We are crafting a Jewish communal experience that is valuable and relevant to the lives of Jewish women as women – not as mothers, not as future partners, not as volunteers, or philanthropists – simply as the powerful women we are.

 

WHO WE ARE

Guidance team

SVIVAH is first-and-foremost a lay-led collective. From its start, it has been an exercise in responsiveness; seeking to uncover, understand, validate, and explore the varying needs and interests of women along their Jewish life journeys. While we do have a group of passionate and committed creators and guides, each member of the Guidance Team considers herself a follower rather than a leader - beholden to the larger community of women and devoted to representing the voices of our collective to the best of her abilities. The Guidance Team commits to being comprised of representatives of our entire collective, ensuring that everyone has a seat at the table in our community.

Creators

The SVIVAH Creators and staff are the good folks who work hard every day to find new ways to bring our community together, to forge new bonds, and tackle new topics. They are our advocates in the larger Jewish community. They spend all their time focused on “the Jewish woman’s life journey” and exploring ways to make that path smoother, more enjoyable, richer, and more communal.

Ariele Mortkowitz: Creator

Ariele Mortkowitz is passionate about the ways women interact with their faith and their community and has dedicated herself to the pursuit of fulfilling female Jewish spiritual and communal experiences. As a volunteer mikvah guide for the past 14 years, Ariele saw how the mikvah ritual could augment an individual’s spiritual journey and create a space for personal connections, leading her to create the Agam Center in 2016. As its founding director, Ariele established the Agam Center as an expansion of what a mikvah can be to a community, creating a Jewish communal home for women's spirituality, wellness, education, and connection. Her work garnered international attention and furthered the conversation about women’s spaces in organizational Judaism. Further committed to creating more spaces for women in Judaism, Ariele is excited about launching SVIVAH, where she gets to "collect" inspirational teachers, healers, counselors, and guides devoted to improving the lives of women and then share them with the audience of Jewish women that has been waiting for them. Ariele is a frequent presenter on modernizing mikvah and female-focused ritual and spirituality. She is a questioning perfectionist who thinks “status quo” is a bad word. She has a background in the Jewish nonprofit world with a focus on strategic planning, organizational growth, and staff training. Ariele is also a JOFA/Yeshivat Chovevei Torah/Yeshivat Maharat-certified premarital teacher. Originally a “Jersey Girl”, Ariele moved to DC with her husband, David Hain, in 2004 where they live with three little people who ask the best questions. Ariele wishes she had more time to read more good books, plays a mean game of Uno, and loves to cook too much, ensuring that there is always room for one more at her table.

Acquired wisdom

One of the primary goals at SVIVAH is to bring together women from various points on the Jewish woman’s life journey so that we can all learn from each other and gain strength from the experience of others. It is precisely for this reason that we continually consult with our advisory committee. We consider ourselves so blessed to be able to learn from and engage with experts who have so much knowledge and experience to share. Their expertise offers insight to our community of women in a variety of ways, lifting us all up with their wisdom in the process.

We will show gratitude for each other, like Miriam.
We will protect each other fiercely, like Yocheved.
We will share our thoughtful wisdom with each other, like Devorah.
We will open our hearts to each other, like Chana.
We will lean on each other, like Rachel and Leah.