"If we change one life we change the world"
From Los Angeles, taking action for Israelis on the front lines
In the days after Oct. 7, Momentum sister Alissa Haroush felt called to help.
As the owner of an online Jewish jewelry store, the quickest thing she could do was harness her company’s platform. By Monday, she was diverting 100 percent of the proceeds from the purchases of five different items to United Hatzalah, an Israeli emergency medical services organization.
“That was the first call to action,” Alissa said. “We did it right away with no knowledge of what was going on.”
As the gravity of the brutal attacks on Israel came into focus, it didn’t take long for her to realize she had an entire community ready and willing to take action for Israel – that’s when she reached out to her Momentum sisters.
Building Jewish connections in Los Angeles
Alissa says growing up, she didn’t have much of a connection to Israel. She first visited as a high school student and, while there, she met the man who would become her husband.
“I would say that my love for Israel came through my husband,” she said. Although Alissa had returned to the country over the years to visit her husband’s family, exploring Israel on a MOMentum Trip in 2021 changed her outlook.
“It wasn’t me as a family member going,” Alissa said. “It was more me as me.”
In 2022, she was invited to be a madricha, an alum who steps up to assist the Trip Leader and guide new participants. Then in May 2023, she took part in the Momentum Fellowship for Jewish women leaders in Orlando.
After that experience, Alissa was inspired to start a group for Jewish women in Los Angeles called Meet Me Where You’re At. “If you’re very religious, if you’re just beginning to explore Judaism, we don’t care,” she said. “All we want is for you to meet other Jewish women – where you’re at, in your world.”
The group stays connected over WhatsApp and gathers for events like the one she hosted in the wake of the attacks in Israel, which combined Jewish learning with much-needed socializing. Together, they’ve developed a powerful community, which Alissa says wouldn’t have been possible without Momentum.
“Being a madricha taught me leadership skills, and it taught me a different way of seeing and understanding Jewish women,” she said. “Then, taking part in the Momentum Fellowship sealed the deal. I’m all in now.”
In times of crisis, community comes through
Alissa’s daughter lives in Tel Aviv, but was home in Los Angeles for Sukkot at the time of the attacks. She told Alissa that her friends in Israel were being deployed and didn’t know how they’d stay in touch with their families – so Alissa stepped up once again.
Using WhatsApp, Alissa activated more than 100 Momentum sisters in Los Angeles and around the country. Her initial goal was to raise enough money to buy 500 portable phone chargers. “Within an hour or two, we had $10,000,” she said. “Just from my Momentum sisters.”
She used the platform to send photos and thank-you videos from soldiers receiving their donations. And word spread: the donations kept coming in. When her husband decided he needed to return to Israel, determined to help in some way, she sent four suitcases of supplies with him to deliver to various army bases.
“Just like we learned, it’s not how much you give, it’s that you give with love and with meaning,” Alissa said.
Finding empowerment amidst fear
Her husband is back home in the U.S. now, and Alissa says she felt numb and could barely eat during his two-week absence. Fortunately, the grassroots community she’d built with her Momentum sisters and the work they were doing for Israel kept her going.
“These little things really make a huge difference,” she says. “What do they teach us? If you change one life, you change the world.”
Alissa says she wants to do more. She plans to keep donating to different organizations, she’s still running her jewelry store’s campaign to support United Hatzalah, she’s working on future Meet Me Where You’re At gatherings – and, despite any fear she may feel, she says she’ll continue speaking up.
She credits Momentum with transforming her life and making her a better, happier person – a change she says her family has noticed, too. “It’s not all or nothing: you do what you can. I did, and it worked.”