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The Power of Community

Create Your Own Sisterhood

A dear friend once described emigration as entering a witness protection program. You arrive in a new country with no identity, and no shared history, and you have to recreate yourself all over again. This is challenging and, with a recent Harvard study proving that loneliness significantly impacts life expectancy, it's a real concern.

This is why I am grateful every day for my ESHH sisterhood and I encourage others to build a sisterhood of their own.

ESHH stands for "English Speakers of Hod Hasharon" which is the name we gave the women's group we created over 15 years ago. The group is restricted to native English speakers, all of a similar age, and all living in Hod Hasharon. We built the group with a structure and focus on philanthropic, networking and social aspects. And it works. More than 15 years later, ESHH is a part of my everyday life, just as sisters connect daily.

A very active WhatsApp group forms the backbone of our daily communication as we chat about everything from restaurant recommendations to recipes, jokes, Hod Hasharon cultural activities, family news and more. Car being serviced and you need a ride to the garage? Check first to see if an ESHH sister is available to help. Going skiing and need the right gear? Make ESHH your first port of call. Lemon tree laden with fruit and you don't want it to go to waste? Pick basketfuls and advise your ESHH friends that they are on your doorstep and free for the taking.

Over the friend-filled ESHH years, I've driven around the neighborhood from one ESHH-ers house to another, borrowing dresses to try as options for an especially glamorous wedding.

When I realized one day I'd arrived at work without my handbag, I sent out an SOS to ESHH, and asked if anyone in the area could check to make sure I hadn't accidentally left it on the sidewalk when I unpacked groceries. Three ESHHers arrived at my house at the same time and sent me a photograph shot through my kitchen window showing my handbag safely inside.

On one especially memorable occasion, I needed an antihistamine when my son woke at 2 am having an allergic reaction, and I couldn't find the necessary medication in my panicked search. An ESHH friend happened to be awake, saw my frantic group post, and put a box of meds outside for me on her garden wall.

And virtually everyone at ESHH has similar, bonding stories.

Over the years we've formed groups of interest within ESHH. There was ESHH Business where interested women got to network and talk business. ESHH Shape where we dieted, weighed, and exercised together. ESHH Mommy & Baby. And YESHH which is the offshoot 'Young ESHH' made up of ESHH members' kids. ESHH is always my first port of call for creating community.

The ESHH women have beached together, hiked together, holidayed together, fundraised together, and celebrated together. Sometimes we even invite reluctant husbands to join us. Our kids have grown up like cousins, we host 'Coffee With My Mom' evenings when our parents visit from abroad, and ESHH members who have left Israel are warmly welcomed when they return to vacation here. This is always a poignant reminder of the circle of friendship they left behind.

Want to meet up with me? Never suggest the last Wednesday of the month as, for more than 15 years, the last Wednesday of every month is our monthly ESHH meeting. After enthusiastic catch-ups and a shared potluck dinner – I am the Food Police and make sure that we have a varied menu of delicious goodness – we gather around to listen to our guest speaker for the month. These guests – who give of their time and speak for free – have allowed us insight into worlds we frequently knew nothing about.

At our annual ESHH Birthday Celebration every December, we reflect on our most memorable ESHH speakers, which have included a reformed con who headed up the notorious '26 Gang' in Cape Town's Pollsmore Prison, and a transgender ex-prostitute who set up a seamstress business which gave prostitutes an alternative way to earn a living.

We've also hosted the marketing director of Better Place, back in the days when electric cars were in their infancy. Other guests have included Holocaust survivors, cancer warriors, heroines fighting sex trafficking, clothing stylists, a past-lives medium, authors, yogis, and everything in-between.

Who can forget 'The Bra Ladies' who would arrive with hundreds of cut-price bras, and would expertly fit ESHH members in a private room, while the rest of the group played 'how well do we know each other' games?

In 2010 we were even featured in Haaretz under the headline "In Hod Hasharon Anglo Women Find Force In Numbers". And we do.

ESHH is closed to new members – we host meetings in our homes so there is a limit to the size of the group – but I'd be very happy to help anyone interested set up a group of their own.

No matter how long Anglos have lived in Israel, there will always be a desire for connection, especially as the majority of olim didn't enjoy the friendship-forming advantages of serving in the IDF, or studying here.

If you'd like direction, feel free to drop me a line on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I'll be very happy to share the ESHH friendship formula. Bear in mind that this will take initial effort to set up, and group maintenance is essential, but the rewards far outweigh the time invested.

There are friends...there is family....and then there are friends that become your family.

This is my experience and it will be my pleasure to play it forward by allowing you to enjoy the same.

 

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Thursday, 25 July 2024

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