The She’ela Festival showcases some of the many talented and remarkable women in the Melbourne Jewish community and beyond. It is a unique opportunity for women to access a wealth of experience in a diverse and all-inclusive environment.

When I stop and think about the impact of the She’ela festival, I feel excited and bursting with energy. So many wonderful connections have been made and the potential is endless.

One woman stopped me on the street one day to tell me how She’ela had saved her life! She attended a session last year and kept in touch with the presenter. She is now her life coach. A friendship ensuing as a result of the festival would make me smile. To know that we’ve saved a life is gratifying indeed.

Last year I mentioned to a good friend of mine who is a musician that she should run a session. She expressed interest, but didn’t feel confident that she could run it on her own. I connected her to another musician who she had never met before. Not only did they run a session in 2017, they are back again this year due to popular demand. They now perform together in a variety of venues including playing music for palliative care patients.

As for me, people often ask how I find the time to organise a festival. Firstly, I could never do it without the wonderful She’elas on the She’ela team. After last festival, two of our team members had to step down due to time restraints.

Despite this, they are both still involved. I can’t begin to explain what that means to me. It’s an example of the ethos of She’ela. We strive to be inclusive so that everyone and anyone can feel comfortable to be involved in any capacity that they can.

Secondly, it is so reassuring to me when people from the community are so willing to be involved. I don’t think any one I have sourced as a presenter has ever turned down the opportunity unless they aren’t availbale at that time.

Then there are the sponsors and volunteers without whom She’ela couldn’t run. We choose our presenters carefully. We choose our additional activities mindfully and we choose our patron very slowly and meticulously, because we want the people involved to represent us appropriately and fittingly.

Ultimately, She’ela does more for me than I do for it. Being one of the organisers and the founder, I feel alive when it comes to anything to do with the festival. It’s like having a child and wanting only the best for that child. I sometimes even decline taking on certain roles like being a moderator or running the women’s circle because someone better than me is available.

I am a big believer in “stepping outside my comfort zone” which was the theme of the 2016 She’ela festival. I believe I need to set that example. I have to catch myself and say to myself, that this isn’t about me. I try my hardest to take out the ego and remind myself that my strength is to get others to be the ones to deliver the information, to impart the knowledge, to entertain, to move others with their stories and to inspire.

We can all be impacted by our surroundings whether it be in a positive or negative way. She’ela provides a one day festival whereby every person there can come and be themselves and with little effort can leave impacted, affected, inspired, uplifted, engaged, entertained and more in many, many positive ways.She’ela has impacted my life beyond words. I have made incredible friends.

Every year we support a different charity. This year we are supporting “Orange Sky”. Last year we supported the wonderful charity called “Sewing the Seeds”. The committee and I loved the sound of what they did and we also loved that it was founded by a local Jewish woman, Gayle Factor.

After the festival it occurred to me that the silent meditation retreat that I wanted to go on was not far from the location of Sewing the Seeds, in Pondicherry India. So, together with Gayle we visited them and their affiliated orphanage, Jaly home.

Visiting the tribal and gypsy village that Sewing the Seeds supports and seeing how they live changed my life forever! I stepped outside my comfort zone to go and see people who are living in the most primitive, back to basics manner.

Whilst being there it helped me touch on two out of our three themes for She’ela. However, I don’t think this experience is helping me to fulfil last year’s theme of “letting go”. I am not ready to “let go” of my desire to keep supporting them. I continue to be grateful to them for reinforcing to me that happiness has nothing to do with how much we have but rather as Ghandi put it: “happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

I think about our friends at Jaly home all the time. To me life is about connection, collaboration and helping people feel comfortable. My involvement in She’ela speaks louder than words because the She’ela festival is about all of those things: connection, collaboration and ensuring everyone feels welcome.

We hope to see you there on 21 October at the Glen Eira Town Hall, 8:30am – 6:30pm or any variety on those times. Sessions run all day with flexibility to come and go according to what appeals to you. See www.sheelafestival.org for more information and ticket booking.

 

Article by Author/s
Naomi Rubinstein
Naomi is the founder and one of the organisers of the She’ela festival. She spent five years in Mullumbimby where her three children grew up. Naomi and her young family attended many festivals that enriched their lives both personally and collectively as a family unit. Naomi has been a Jewish Studies teacher for nearly three decades and is currently studying a Masters of Counselling at Monash University. She has also been the proud Bat Mitzvah teacher of Caulfield Hebrew Congregation for the past six years. She runs annual mother-daughter weekends with her own daughters as her co facilitators and more recently has been organising and facilitating women’s retreats, focusing on connection and empathy, qualities she believes are key to a happy life.

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