Evolve Hadassah self-defense event brings together next generation of Houston leaders

As a single mother of a young child, Lauren Barrash has always wanted to take a self-defense class. The Houston native also has been thinking about ways to become involved with the Jewish community.

“I do feel like I need to protect myself and my son. It’s important for me to know how to use my body in defense should a frightening situation arise,” Barrash told the JHV. “I also knew it was time for me and my son to get reconnected to our community.”

So, when Barrash received an email that a rather new organization, Evolve Houston Hadassah, was offering a self-defense seminar and the chance to meet dynamic Jewish women her age, the social worker signed up.

On Thursday, Aug. 24, Barrash joined a group of about 10 women for Evolve’s “Fierce and Fabulous” Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class at Ravlin Martial Arts & Fitness. Instructor and studio owner Angelus McFarlane and Coach Dominique Shelton showed participants the basics of the ground-based martial art, which uses the principles of leverage, angles, pressure and timing – to subdue or disable an opponent.

“Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the best form of self-defense for women because it helps you get up and get away,” said Stacy Haywood, Ravlin co-owner.

During the session, the women paired up to practice some of the techniques with each other, which involved learning the correct fighting stance, how to fall while protecting their heads and how to get back up on their feet.

Most of the ladies, total strangers, shared some laughs together and found their first Hadassah gathering to be informative and quite fun.

“It was a great experience. I’ve met some new Hadassah women and got to reconnect with an old friend,” said Ayelet Harris, who has trained in martial arts before and already knew McFarlane.

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America’s mission is to inspire a passion and commitment to the land, the people and the future of Israel. Through education, advocacy and youth development, and its support of medical care and research at Hadassah Medical Organization, Hadassah enhances the health and lives of people in Israel, the United States and worldwide.

Evolve Hadassah: The Young Women’s Network (my.hadassah.org/connecting-our-members/evolve) was created to carry Hadassah’s core purpose through the next generation of women in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Sandye Fertman, organizer of the self-defense event, has served as an Evolve Leadership fellow for the past year. She has been charged with growing a younger women’s presence through Evolve in Houston.

“My goal is to reach women who want to continue the Hadassah mission here in Houston and beyond,” Fertman explained to the JHV. “I do think these events are engaging people, and they are coming back for more.

“It’s about empowering the young women here and showing our children that doing something Jewish is good for the community and good for Israel. I also want people to form a close-knit group in which we can count on each other.”

“Fierce and Fabulous” attendee Jill Mandel is a Hadassah lifetime member. She and her family moved to Houston a year-and-a-half ago from Long Island, N.Y. Mandel joined the organization more than 15 years ago to meet people and has enjoyed connecting with new women at the Evolve Houston events.

“When I am at a Hadassah event, I feel a connection to my heritage,” said Mandel, who, at one point, held the position of secretary with her former chapter in New York.

As for Barrash, she left the Jiu Jitsu seminar feeling more comfortable and confident, and she plans to practice what she’s learned so far with her son. Barrash also would like to take part in future Evolve Houston Hadassah events.

For information about Evolve Houston Hadassah happenings around town, email [email protected].

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