Find a Local Mothers Circle

<-- Back to list

Northampton, MA

Mothers Circle: The Course is in recess for a year and will return to Northampton soon. Past sponsors include the Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts and the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

If you are interested in attending the course in the future or becoming a course sponsor, please contact course facilitator Shoshana Zonderman at

Circle News :

December 2009
Mothers Circle alums attended a Hanukkah cooking class at Whole Foods Market organized by Shoshana that reclaimed the tradition of eating cheese foods on Hanukkah to honor the heroine Judith (who beheaded General Holofernes). Berkshire chefs Dawn LaRochelle and Jim Lambert demonstrated delicious cheese dishes while Shoshana taught about the holiday.


April 2009
At a couples' session led by Shoshana, the topic of transmitting Jewish values and rituals in the family was discussed following a viewing of the trigger video "Gefilte Fish" by Karen Silverstein (Ergo Media.) Couples grappled with what to transmit and how they can do this together, as well as how their family will grow Jewishly in the coming year. At a Shabbat dinner at the home of a Circle member, we posed with the tools used in the video by three generations of Jewish women to make their gefilte fish recipes: a wooden chopping bowl and chopper (used by grandma,) a Cuisinart (used by a mother,) and a jar of Manischevitz gefilte fish (used by the granddaughter.)

March 2009

Circle members joined community members at a vegetarian Passover cooking class (pictured at right) led by Shoshana and culinary artist, Dawn LaRochelle ( Passover seder resources were distributed along with suggestions to enliven the seder for children and for adults. Participants agreed that the Turkish haroset created at the class would add a wonderful flavor to the seder meal.

February 2009
A local mohel and family physician, Dr. Henry Simkin, spoke to Circle members about brit milah (ritual circumcision) and how to understand this unique Jewish ritual. Shoshana provided samples of booklets for use at the ceremony that contain beautiful readings for family members along with the Hebrew blessings. Since two Circle members are pregnant, this was very timely information for them.

September 2008
Philanthropist Diane Troderman invited 21 Mothers Circle alums and their spouses/partners to a Friday night dinner at her home in Longmeadow, MA. Rabbi Andrea Cohen Kiener (of West Hartford, CT) led a lively Kabbalat Shabbat service with drums and tambourines, followed by a catered meal. Shoshana led a discussion about the next steps in our Jewish journey. Diane's husband, philanthropist Harold Grinspoon, led a tour of their newly renovated home after dinner.

May 2008
Four congregational rabbis joined the two Mothers Circle leaders (pictured at right) at a public forum to discuss “Welcoming Interfaith Families.” The rabbis explained the approach of their denominations and their own personal practices regarding interfaith issues. Shoshana Zonderman moderated the panel and presented questions from Circle members in addition to questions from the audience. A lot of information was shared, including suggestions from the audience about ways to be more welcoming.

Philanthropist Diane Troderman treated Mothers Circle alums to a day of spa treatments at the Cranwell Resort and Spa in Lenox, MA. Over lunch, feedback on the Mothers Circle was shared with Diane as well as hopes for the future. Rabbi Sheila Weinberg led a Jewish T'ai Chi exercise to end the day.

February 2008
The Mothers Circle ran a Jewish cooking class at Whole Foods Market in Hadley, MA (pictured at right). In addition to baking challah and a sweet kugel (noodle pudding), the history of these traditional foods was explained along with a sharing of family stories about immigration to America.


November 2007
The More Mothers Circle is learning about Jewish history and those books that are important for Judaism. After reviewing a list of the books in the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures), members got a close look at a Torah scroll and learned how it is made. They also looked at a page of Talmud and read some English Talmudic quotes.

September 2007

On September 9th, the families of More Mothers Circle (the alumnae group) learned about the High Holidays in a workshop created by Shoshana Zonderman. The 90 minute workshop included: the themes of the High Holidays, a story for children called "The Hardest Word," a family discussion about teshuvah (eg. saying you are sorry) and the creation of a family teshuvah necklace, a shofar for each family, and a light lunch. For the necklace, each person chose a behavior to improve in the coming year and wrote it on colored paper that was rolled inside a two inch length of clear plastic tubing. Colorful beads and the tubing were strung on a colored cord to create a necklace that will be worn by each family member. The workshop ended with a demonstration of shofar blowing.

March 2007
During the three week Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival, the Mothers Circle sponsored a screening of "Mixed Blessings" followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Jennifer Kaplan. The documentary film explored how four interfaith families decided to raise their children. Circle members had complimentary passes to the screening.

Four Mothers Circle families attended a Passover program at a local synagogue along with Shoshana Zonderman, Circle leader. They made matzah from scratch in 18 minutes (or a bit longer), decorated afikomen bags for use at the seder, and chopped up two kinds of charoset (a nut, apple and wine mixture) for eating at the seder. Several Circle members are celebrating Passover together at the house of a Circle member.

While learning about the holiday of Purim, Northampton Mothers Circle members donned funky hats and costume items to act out the story of Purim. One member baked hamentashen (a traditional pastry) and everyone twirled groggers (noise makers) when the name of Haman was mentioned.

February 2007

Shoshana Zonderman led a family education session entitled "Honorable Menschen and Mitzvah Moments." The program reinforced the curriculum concepts of mitzvah, mensch and tikkun olam by linking them to Jewish actions with five body parts. Body tracings listed potential mitzvah actions for eyes, ears, hands, feet and mouth.

The adults were taught a list of ten mitzvot in a separate learning session while children heard a story that reinforced the concepts. Then in a family mitzvah booklet, illustrations of the ten mitzvot required children to identify and place a body part sticker on the page while parents placed a mitzvah name sticker on the page. Each family agreed on a new mitzvah action to do after the program.

December 2006

The Mothers Circle sponsored a public discussion with Christine Benvenuto entitled "Welcoming Non-Jewish Mothers," reported on in the Jewish Ledger. Chris is the author of Shiksa: the Gentile Woman in the Jewish Community , published in 2004. She shared some of her interviews with women in interfaith families and their struggles. Several members of the Mothers Circle were present in the audience and they resonated with the concerns and issues mentioned by Chris. The discussion closed with an appreciation for the interest of the local Jewish community in reaching out to gentile mothers who are raising Jewish children.