The business trip, the honeymoon, the family vacation—all trips come with an assumable number of corresponding travelers. But how do you describe a 12-person vacation? What about a seven-family retreat? These St. Louisans spent their summers being, to say the least, social. Can you even imagine the luggage?
The 12 self-proclaimed ‘St. Louis Soul Sisters’ journeyed from the Mississippi River all the way to the Sea of Galilee as part of a 10-day trip to Israel.
“It’s a unique trip, in that it is exclusively for Jewish moms,” says Ellie Grossman-Cohen. “It combines play with learning about Judaism in a way that really applies to our everyday life.” The adventure was part of the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project and Aish HaTorah St. Louis, which allowed the group a chance to meet up with some 200 other participants from around the world.
Trip adventures ranged from mud baths in the Dead Sea to desert camel rides and kayaking in the Jordan River. “We had a blast!” Grossman-Cohen says, noting much time was spent “eating the best Mediterranean food ever—and that in itself inspires us to want to try new Jewish foods.”
Other aspects of the St. Louis Soul Sisters’ vacation included visiting the Western Wall, touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and volunteering. “It inspires us to live more Jewishly; to be better moms, better people, better wives; and it inspires us to live a more meaningful, fulfilling life.”
Talk about a full house! Seven families vacationed to Seaside, Fla., bringing together a combined 14 children ages 6 and under. This group—comprised originally of Saint Louis University college friends—vacations together every three years, with the group size always increasing.
“We all originally lived in St. Louis, and we started dispersing to different places,” says Maggie Eisenbeis. “We wanted somewhere where our kids could still be close, even though they weren’t going to be growing up in the same city.”
The group involved a total of 27 people (the pregnant wife of one attendee stayed home during the trip), who lodged in a 10-bedroom rental home. “Some people say, It sounds like such a nightmare to go on vacation with that many kids. I think it is because we’ve been friends for so long, and understand the ins and outs of each other, that it was able to work so well,” Eisenbeis says. “And most of us had lived with each other before.”
While there were a few evenings out, as well as individual family time, Eisenbeis says much of the vacation was spent as a group at the rental. “Most of the trip is designed to be with each other,” she says. “Three years ago, we went to Outer Banks, and we didn’t really leave the house. This year, we went to Seaside because we thought we’d want to go out more. As it turned out, we didn’t really need to—the beach, being with each other and playing in the yard was all we needed.”
Before long, it will be time to begin planning the next vacation; Eisenbeis says the year following a trip is spent searching for a location. “But we already have two more families who want to join us, so we’ll have to see if we can get a big enough place!”