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Nov 20, 2023

Support Group Brings Together Mothers of Children in Israel: When We Stand Together, We Are Stronger

A Star of David represents each of the group member's sons and daughters living in Israel. The light blue ones represent grandchildren. Each meditation is dedicated to them.

“I knew I couldn’t be the only person in Miami with a child in Israel. It takes a mother in the same situation to understand," said Denise Dunager, M.S.Ed, a Refuat Ha-Nefesh Fellow, who founded and facilitates the Support Group for Women With Children in Israel. After completing Refuat Ha-Nefesh Spiritual Training and the Bereavement Training Program, both offered by Federation’s Mishkan Miami, Dunager was volunteering as a grief counselor when the war in Israel began on October 7. “I felt useless,” she said. With Dunager’s daughter and family living north of Netanya, she decided to refocus her counseling skills. “People need connection to feel like they’re not the only ones going through this,” she continued.

The group, which meets Mondays on Zoom from 8 to 9 p.m., began November 6 and already has 16 participants. It comprises mothers and grandmothers of lone soldiers, children who made aliyah and students who stayed in support of the war effort. Most of the moms are from Miami, with about a third from other parts of the country, such as Michigan and Massachusetts. In addition to the weekly Zoom sessions, Dunager set up a WhatsApp group “to support each other for days in between our meetings.”

The Refuat Ha-Nefesh program taught her to effectively utilize her strengths in her volunteer work so, in addition to facilitating the discussion, Dunager incorporates meditation, which she also teaches, into each session. “For anyone who has children [in Israel],” she disclosed, “our life remains paused until the war is over and everyone is safe.” Anxiety about the situation has resulted in many sleepless nights. One mother reported, “The meditation really helped me. … I actually slept two nights in a row.”

Politics have no place in the group. Instead, participants share feelings and news of their loved ones in Israel. Dunager’s daughter cooks for soldiers and took in a displaced family from Sderot. Her 14-year-old grandson volunteers with an emergency food distribution. Her daughter and three grandchildren have American citizenship but refuse to leave Israel, so Dunager, like the other mothers, worries and waits. “We’re all in pain and we all want to be uplifted,” she said of the group, affirming, “When we stand together, we are stronger.”

To join the group, email [email protected]. To apply to the Refuat Ha-Nefesh training program, email [email protected].

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