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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Eight Women April Update

Updated: May 6, 2021

March/April was a month of movement and forward progress by this group of women.

One can feel the movement as some of us physically pick up and move to different apartments. A few of us had birthdays and another year was checked off. More of us our venturing out. One of us has finished her project and the rest of us will be winding this project down over the next month or two. One tiny pandemic project among thousands, this specific project and these people have taught me much about positivity, endless creativity and ways to give back to the community.

Leann, May 6, 2021

Sophie April, 2021 Massachusetts Age 17

Sophie April, 2021 Massachusetts age 17

Sophie turned 17! She returned to school full time. She has thoroughly enjoyed shopping in person again. She is still dancing and we are waiting, during our final month of the 8 Women project, to see photos of Sophie's recital. Of all of us who are involved with this project have marveled at Sophie's resilience and flexibility as a teen attending school during her junior year of high school. We have seen how she has grown more independent after she got her driver's license. We have seen how it is for her to live with a family and a beloved dog. It's been wonderful to see the bonds between Sophie and her sister and Sophie and her dog.

All of the rest of us are in very different situations than Sophie. She has brought real youth to our group and we continue to be grateful for her participation.


Arielle, Washington DC- April, 2021 Age 29

Ok here are my photos for the past month! In March, my boyfriend purchased a condo in the Navy Yard neighborhood of DC and we have since moved in. Our new place is quieter than our prior downtown apartment, which is a huge plus. And it has two bedrooms so we no longer have to work from home from the same room. One of the days we were moving our belongings over to the new apartment, DC was gifted a beautiful double rainbow, and we had a great view from our window.

Now that I’m fully vaccinated, I finally started taking the Metro again for the first time since March 2020. While rush hour is a bit more crowded, it’s nowhere near how busy it used to be pre-pandemic. I took these metro photos midday on a weekday. And I’ve NEVER seen the stations this empty before. Even late at night or early morning Metro rides had some people. But this was the first time I’ve ever had a platform all to myself.



The end of March and beginning of April have been quite eventful! Scott and I were apartment hunting for many weeks and then signed a lease. We spent a lot of time looking for furniture, organizing the logistics, packing and getting ready to start this new chapter together. I turned 31 at the end of March and I was home in Maryland and able to celebrate in person with my family. Over Passover, my entire extended family was lucky enough to be together. We are all vaccinated and had our first sense of normalcy with thirteen guests around our seder table. Passover was the calm before the storm- we read books, spent time outside and saw the Cherry blossom festival in DC. Since the beginning of April, I have been very focused on job hunting and apartment packing! This past Sunday we loaded up the moving vans and unpacked in White Plains. We've been here for three days so far... so far so good :)

At our last meeting, when I asked Elisheva about what she has learned from the Eight Women project she said that she had learned a little bit about controlling stress. Teaching during the pandemic, both in person and on line has been filled with stress. Covid conditions in the schools were always changing and she had to be exceedingly flexible to go with the flow. Taking photographs of her life outside of school and focusing on the many positive events in her life allowed her to see the positive.

Being part of this project allowed Elisheva to see that women of different ages have more in common than she expected. She learned that hope and positivity is something that all of the women in the project shared.



I just biked past my girls' school and they're setting up a tent for lunches and outdoor teaching space. It was quite a sight to see (and hear - lots of drilling).

There's a photo of my girls and me, stopping for Starbucks after a bike ride. There's a close-up of my 6 year old's feet. She gets her shoes on the wrong feet 100% of the time.

Here's a photo of my 6 year old on a playground.

Now that the weather is nice, we go more.

She made a restaurant one night on our front porch. She wrote menus and set the table. I ordered a banana and a glass of milk.

I'm so grateful for the warmer weather.

Being part of the Eight Women project has enabled Sarah Marie to focus on her children exclusively. As an elementary school teacher teaching full time on line. Her days are spent teaching and her evenings are spent planning. Being part of this project allowed her to spend more quality time with her children. Although her children were at home during the pandemic, each person in her household had all sorts of responsibilities, both work and school. The photos she has shared in this project are all very special projects where she got to notice her children. She was able, through the lens of a camera, to focus on little actions of her children and to comment on ways that she appreciates each of them for who they are. She has beautifully captured the experience of pandemic learning at home.



A Call to Action - April 2021

Spring has Sprung! And with it comes many more opportunities to be outside and take action! The world is awakening again to many injustices around us. This month I am thankful to be involved in Newton's, Boston’s and Massachusetts’ efforts to work towards Social Justice!

I proudly served my city for the 3rd time by being a poll worker for our city elections to fill two spots on our city council. It is quite rare to have 3 elections during an 8 month period! ( i expect to serve this role next in fall 2022, for congressional races. I have learned about the intricacies of elections and voting, nationally and locally this year! Regardless of why we are coming to the polls, it is always a well orchestrated system that promotes fairness and democracy, thankfully, in my hometown.

Over the past 5 weeks, I have been involved in the initiation of the Newton FREEDGE! The Freedge is a free fridge open 24/7! It is a community effort supported by the Newton Food Pantry. It has both a refrigerator and pantry. Being on the beta team and now a Co-Captain, working with the volunteers from my faith based community, it has been a fascinating experience- one that has left me uplifted and quite bittersweet. The generosity in my city from both the business and private citizen sectors is incredible! So many donations and helping hands to stock the fridge with nourishment, clean and check the dates of the items and allow people to live with more dignity, makes me so proud! Our Facebook group with over 1.5K members is constantly being updated with current status posts, and I have even witnessed many people in need first contribute to the pantry before taking food from the fridge- its breathtaking! One woman I met, was determined to help me wipe down all the shelves, before packing her own bag- she ended up taking a picture of me holding the pizzas and salad I was bringing from a local generous pizzeria. These are very meaningful interactions. What is hard to handle is how challenging it is to keep the Freedge stocked… no sooner do we have a full fridge and pantry, than within minutes and at most 2 hours we are back to empty. It makes me wonder how people were managing before the Freedge. For me it shows both the need to continue to find ways to fight food insecurity and allows so many individual families to participate in their own uniques ways.

Volunteering weekly on the Fresh Truck continues—the sun shining and warmer temps has really brought light to the whole experience. How lucky am I to be surrounded by gorgeous colors of produce and people, whom I probably would never meet in my past life, all working for the ultimate goal of dignity and health.

Have you ever read Mercy or heard Bryon Stevenson speak? His work has inspired me to act with a new cause! I have joined Second Chance Justice, a Mass. interfaith group working on issues of clemency for wrongful life sentences, of course mostly affecting men of color. In particular, we are working to support the quest of commutation of William Allen, a man already serving 27 years of LIFE IN PRISON, without parole. Even though the man charged with pulling the trigger that killed an innocent person was released over 10 years ago, William is still paying the price with his life! We are part of a letter wiring and strategy campaign aimed at Governor Baker. William Allen has dedicated himself to bringing out the best in other prisoners, and now the parole board has agreed hear this case. It is in Governor Baker’s hands now, and he has the final say…..want to join me in making a difference?



I have finished the project that I began last summer on The Memory Room. As the group who had been recited kaddish together gradually have completed their obligations to recite the kaddish, the group in "The Memory Room" is different than it was although some of us who were attending each day during the lockdown still continue and we are witnesses for the new group of people who are honoring their loved one's memories.

I finished the kaddish for mom in late December but I am still entering The Memory Room each morning. Each day I recite the Amidah, (the silent prayer) and saying the words has become my quiet prayer time each morning. To be frank, this is the first time in my life that I have prayed with what I deem to be kavannah (intention) and although it is only for a short time each morning, it continues to reflect upon the special morning minyan.

Congregation Kehillath Israel has kindly placed my completed project on their website, which you can find here.



I have been looking at these photos and reflecting over the past year.

I decided not to take pictures just for this project, rather to highlight the pictures that I take as I go through my life and look at them through the lens of understanding my experiences over the past year - stopping to breath and smell the flowers and look at the sky- trying to keep my chronicle as a chronicle of what is passing rather than what I wish were happening.

It has been hard to wish.

There was and feels like there still is so much uncertainty, so much that we had control of that I probably will never feel like I have control of making plans for the future.

There are lessons to learn from this.

Many things in my life have not changed. I am still the same person doing a lot of the same things, balancing my life by focusing on the things that provide definition and structure to deal with the constant change around me and as a way of doing what I do and trying to focus on the here and now.

I worry too much.

Cooking the food we eat, baking the bread, tending my garden, doing the laundry its a lifelong ongoing always need, whether its for me or for my family.

Life is full of changes, the seasons change, the leaves fall, there are new buds on the trees- and I still need to bake a challah for Shabbat.

The hardest part has been separation from my children and grandchildren.

I wish, I learn, I worry...



The best part of this pandemic is that today my darling daughter from Maryland flew up to spend her belated 65th birthday celebration postponed from last year to join her sister, the darling daughter who has been my tech guru, errand shopper, and driver for doctor visits, in addition to using her many skills in every way to help me, so I received the biggest hugs, and look forward to a "Girls Weekend" together doing the things that only the feminine members of this family do together!

I love Zoom! Every Friday before Shabbos, Mindy puts Zoom on, and all day Saturday I get to see all of my 11 great grandchildren ranging in age from 5 months to 8 years. Before COVID 19 we never did that!

I love being a part of “Eight Women “ and hearing their wonderful stories of giving of themselves to others and their beautiful Shabbats and holidays.

Being in isolation for a while and now slowly returning to the outside world and seeing friends and family makes you appreciate e very little bit of life and nature- it is almost like a rebirth!


From Leann and all of the other Eight Women to Bernice:

You have been our shining light and guide. Your positivity, your ability to make lemons for lemon-aide, your interest in our lives and your laugh has brought us great joy.

Having you as part of our group has been a true privilege.d

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