That Time I Started a Jewish Women’s Support Group
By Stephanie Lewis
How hard could it be? Set some folding chairs in a circle in my living room, put out some grapes, and throw out a topic. Voilà …instant friendships! I put a post online in San Diego Meet-Up Groups that said, “Starting a Jewish Women’s group. I worry a lot so I was thinking of calling it WWW (Women Who Worry!) but we can tweak when you get here.”
The first two comments came from women who worried they didn’t know how to “twerk.” I reread my post and realized autocorrect took some liberties with the word “tweak.” The next remark was also interesting. “Will this be for Jewish women who worry incessantly and want to stop? Or for Jewish women who worry they don’t worry as much as they should?” And the comment after that: “Jewish women don’t have the Monopoly on negative emotions, ya know! I own Boardwalk where the rent is high with Guilt. And Park Place, which also charges a lot of Shame.” What the heck? Followed by this: “How about a women’s group that plays fun board games? I’m tired of Mahjong and it’ll take our minds off worrying.” And then this: “Can we call it, ‘Women Who Worry Too Much AND the Men Who Put Up With Them’ so we also meet interesting guys?” And naturally this followed: “I won’t show up if males attend because then I can’t wear yoga pants.”
Frustrated, I posted my address with a date/time and figured I’d deal with these Jewish women in person. The day arrived and things were fine in the beginning as everyone filed in, but I wondered if I should’ve asked them to wear their Star of David necklaces, otherwise how would I know we were all Jewish? I guess it didn’t really matter. Suddenly a stressed-out mother dashed in bluntly asking, “So where is your childcare?” Stunned, I said – “Uh well if we pitch in say $2, I suppose my eldest daughter could babysit for an hour upstairs.” Another woman immediately asked, “If we pitch in $10, do you suppose you could hire a housekeeper to clean this pigpen up and serve deli trays instead of grapes because I have IBS?” Yep, these women were all Jewish!
After more bickering and debating, one woman claiming to be a licensed therapist suggested we turn our chairs toward the wall and sit facing away from one another to meditate instead. After they left, I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep that night. I toyed with starting another support group for women with insomnia. But how could that work? We’d be too tired during the day from being awake all night. And in the evenings, we’d be trying to meditate to help ourselves fall asleep. I began to worry we’d never find a mutually convenient time. To distract myself, I read slips of paper women had left in my suggestion box. Mostly they were filled with ideas for new ideas for groups. “Women Who Are Authentic and Mindful” and “Women Who Dislike Using Words Like Authentic & Mindful” and “Women Who Are Mean To Other Women at Support Groups” and “Women With Teenagers” and “Women Who Want to Trade Teenagers” and “Older Jewish Woman Who are Still Hip” and “Middle-Aged Jewish Woman Who Dislike Their Hips.”
At the next group, I announced our new name to encompass everything anyone had in mind. “Dysfunctional Households.” Immediately someone asked, “Women Who Grew Up in a Dysfunctional Household?” or “Women Who Create their Own Dysfunctional Household?” Then a man showed up and asked if this was the Jewish support group where women are twerking?” and five women (wearing yoga pants) immediately ran out. Any future support groups I decide to start will simply be named, “Oy Vey.”
Stephanie D. Lewis can be found on The Huffington Post and at OnceUponYourPrime.com.