Our organization began in October 2005, in Chicago when Rabbi Debra Bowen, the Rabbi and Spiritual Leader of Congregation Temple Bethel (7350 Lowber Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19138) called a meeting with sisters of her congregation and sisters of Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation (6601 South Kedzie Avenue, Chicago, IL 60629). Rabbi shared the vision the Most High God gave her. The vision was one of Israelite women from around the country, coming together to empower each other and praise our Creator.
The sisters were in full agreement and the first conference was held five months later, for three days, (March 10-12, 2006), in Chicago at Beth Shalom. Sister Akeviyah Salter worked diligently with Dinah Judah-Peterson and came up with the name Phenomenal Israelite Women’s Conference. Approximately 50 women from Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago participated in informative workshops, fellowshipped, and praised the Most High God. During the closing business session, Rabbinit Leah Yohonatan, (wife of Rabbi Yahoshuah Yahonatan, HaCohen, Z”I”), suggested that we convene in March, because March is designated as Women’s History Month.
Conference attendees have explored a wide range of topics i.e., spirituality, prayer, health and wellness, death and burial, financial planning and philanthropy, parenting, marital relationships as well as how-to workshops on wrapping gelees, making challah bread, and tying tzitzit to name a few. We have also presented workshops which focus on subjects of interest for our young women and younger daughters.
As the conference grew, state coordinators were assigned to garner more interest and participation in the conference and Yakira LaPrince agreed to serve as the organization’s Executive Director. In 2011, we launched our first website (pwomen.webs.com) to provide greater visibility and a presence on the World Wide Web. To further solidify our organizational structure, during the March 2013 conference, Rabbi Bowen called a meeting of the state coordinators and we selected our first officers. We agreed that Rabbi Bowen, the founder, would be the Executive Director; Rabbinit Leah Yohonatan (NY/PA), Spiritual Advisor; Khaya Baker (NY), Assistant Executive Director; Dr. Yakira LaPrince (PA), would continue to serve in an advisory position; Rabbinit Patricia Plummer (PA), Treasurer; Judith Samuels-Thomas (NY), Financial Secretary; Dinah Judah-Peterson (IL), Secretary. We agreed our official name is Phenomenal Israelite Women (PIW).
We conducted a logo contest and Verona Grimmage’s design was unveiled during the 2014 conference. We developed a mission statement and began to determine the best legal structure for the organization.
Over the past nine years conferences have been held in Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, Florida, and North Carolina. The conference attracted attendees from three states in 2006, to approximately a dozen states across the U.S. and in Guyana, South America in 2014, and we know, if it is the Creator’s will, we will continue to grow.
Our mission is to be the premier organization committed to bringing together Israelite women from diverse communities, to strengthen our Israelite nation, to support and inspire sisters to become the best they can be in their homes, congregations, and communities through the dissemination of information and prayer, and to provide a resource and a legacy for our daughters “la-dor va-dor.”