Celebrating Women’s History Month

Rugelach baking evening unites Jewish women in Tidewater

Last month, 25 Jewish women met one evening at the home of Betsy Karotkin, UJFT Women’s Philanthropy chair, to meet and greet one another and to discuss the significant impact of Jewish women – all while learning to bake “Betsy’s Famous Rugelach.” The event was filled with laughter, connection, and celebration.

Women of all ages, backgrounds, and community involvement engaged in heartfelt conversations, sharing personal stories about their unique Jewish “journeys.” A walk around the room revealed snippets of conversations which could only have been heard at a gathering of Jewish women. Stories about Jewish geography, old BBYO and sorority connections, adventures in being a day school parent, Jewish camping, kosher food options in Tidewater, and other commonalities connected the women throughout the evening.

From seasoned community leaders to young women just beginning to get involved in the Jewish community, each participant brought a unique perspective and a shared sense of responsibility for the Jewish people.

“We, each of us, is responsible for one another, for our people, and for keeping the Jewish community alive,” said Karotkin. “And each of us can play a role in supporting the Tidewater Jewish Community. We can lead a mission to visit Jewish communities overseas; we can be youth group advisors or Jewish educators; we can serve on the boards and committees that steer the programs we need and love; we can be donors, and we can ask others to join us. In the end, we can all be proud of our individual and collective contributions to the community.”

The women gathered around Karotkin’s kitchen to watch her carefully roll out the dough – “just about this thick,” she said – sprinkle the cinnamon, spread the chopped nuts (or not!), then slice and roll from the wide side. As the kitchen filled with the unmistakable aroma of baking dough and caramelizing butter, the group learned the secrets behind “Betsy’s Famous Rugelach” – it’s best when made with friends.

At the evening’s end, everyone braved the chilly wind coming off the Lynnhaven River to head home with fresh rugelach, a bevy of new friends and connections, and the promise of future combined events with YAD and Women’s Philanthropy members. These opportunities to connect across generations and work together to take care of one another and all Jewish people will continue.

Elana McGovern is the director of United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Young Adult Division.