Rachel Weinstein grew up in Cony Island NY, where the noise from the trains, the amusement rides, the fire station and the television noises competed with the quiet sound of a 15-year-old girl making Kiddush on Shabbat.
Though her family was far from religious, Rachel was sent to a Jewish day school, resulting in the unlikely combination of her making the HaMotzie blessing for bread before chomping down on her Big Mac. Though she loved school, she felt that her teachers were trying to force religion down her throat. She was particularly turned off by the derogatory tones used for non-Jews. When she finally went to a public high school, she was happy with her freedom from restrictions and regulations.
Three things happened to Rachel in high school. The first involved an excellent high school language program in which she learned Hebrew at a very high level from a teacher who was also a cantor. The second was a youth group called JPSY geared towards kids in the public school system, where Rachel sensed an openness without obligations. "They wanted me whether or not I kept kosher or Shabbat, simply because I was Jewish. It was enough to be myself," Rachel remembers. This inclusiveness drew her closer, inviting her to get more involved.
The third thing was a trip to Israel before 11th grade. Upon returning home, Rachel announced that she wanted to be religious. Some people reacted in a patronizing way. But her rabbi was different. He told her, "Don't do anything, just breathe. Don't buy new dishes and don't light candles. Just breathe." Rachel started to cry. "He knew just what to say," she recalls.
Now living in Beit Shemesh, Israel, Rachel is joyfully raising four noisy children and a dog. Tune in to meet this electrifying lady with a lot of wisdom about life!