Welcome to “Who the Folk?!” Every week on Monday we feature a new member of our Jewish community. Know someone we should feature? Nominate them by sending an email to [email protected].
Last week week we got to know Leora Maccabee Itman. This week meet Judy Victor! Judy’s a self-proclaimed Minnesotan who’s both full of and loves life. She got on our radar because of a really cool event she’s hosting in a couple of weeks. She was great to talk to–prepare to be inspired!
Judy: It developed out of a desire to go out somewhere and dance with my girlfriends. A place for us to go where we would feel comfortable and safe and not be crowded by people. I just really wanted to go out with my girlfriends and dance to great music, and almost, like, be in a bubble. Right? I became really frustrated not finding a place to go to. So instead of perpetuating those feelings of disappointment, and not doing anything about it, I kind of went, “OK, forget it. I’m just gonna have a dance party of my own.” So that was the impetus for creating Leap Events. I wanted to create a space of connection and joy and celebration and positivity in a drama-free zone.
TCJ: Will it just be dancing? Anything more to it?
Judy: It definitely started off as just this “Let’s have a dance party” thing. But the idea eventually grew into wanting to elevate it more. A dance party is great, and connection is great, but I started thinking about all the women in my life that I’m connected to and I wanted to give back. My aunt and cousin both died of ovarian cancer within 11 months of each other–7.5 years ago. And I felt like the memories I had of them were fading. They were getting fuzzy, and it made me really uncomfortable and I wanted to do something to bring their memory back. They were very involved in the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA). So now we’re partnering with MOCA to honor them as strong, beautiful women. MOCA will receive 85% of the net proceeds. For all the women coming we are hoping to bring more awareness about this disease, and have a great time.
TCJ: So sorry for your loss, but that does sound like a great way to honor their memory.
Judy: I hope so… With regards to the Jewish community in particular, chances are almost 2,000% higher in Ashkenazi women to have the BRCA-1 and -2 gene mutation for ovarian and breast cancer than the general population, so it should definitely be a conversation that is happening with the women of our Jewish community. But I want to bring it bigger and elevate it even more. Not to have it just about me and my girlfriends, but for all of the women in the Twin Cities. To take a look at themselves and see how beautiful and strong each one of us is, and how, if we connect as a community of women, how much stronger we can be.
TCJ: That sounds pretty ambitious…
Judy: I’m an idealistic person. I want to change the world! If we get enough empowered women, we can inspire a community, and if we get enough communities that are empowered we can inspire countries, and if we get enough countries inspired, then we can change the world. A very close friend of mine and mentor, Lori Palatnik, shared this concept with me. She takes women to Israel on highly subsidized tours through an organization she started called Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project. I’ve had the opportunity to be on a few of these trips and have seen the impact. So I’ve been affected by her and in my own small way, I’m trying to do the same thing.
TCJ: So it’s safe to assume that this dance party is just for women?
Judy: Yes, it’s strictly for women. Literally no men. Shana Gee-Cohen is the DJ. Everyone there will be a female. I’ve had a few guy friends ask if they could be bartenders or photographers. They got a big N-O from me. Because even if one man is there–listen, I love men. I love my husband. But the dynamic changes when men and women are together, especially in a dancing environment. I just want women to feel free to let go, to just be. And not have to worry about what they look like, and what they’re saying, and what they’re doing, and how they’re moving. I just want them to be free.
TCJ: That almost sounds like a life philosophy.
Judy: Basically. I want to celebrate moments. I’m interested in connection and community and whether I encounter somebody at the grocery store, or I’m with my best friend, I want to be fully engaged and I want to savor whatever is happening in that moment. To inspire and infuse these moments and people I encounter with life and energy.
TCJ: So on that note, what’s your favorite way to celebrate Shabbat?
Judy: With people that I love. To have homemade challah and a good meal where we sit around the table for as long as we possibly can and just talk and laugh and celebrate. Celebrate the joy of disconnecting to connect.
TCJ: What’s your favorite Jewish food?
Judy: Oh gosh… my mom’s matzo ball soup. But also my friend Giti’s chocolate babka. She makes the best chocolate babka I’ve ever had… seriously.
TCJ: What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
Judy: Shavuot. That’s where we became a true nation. Where we became Am Yisrael. I mean, people always say Pesach or Rosh Hashanah because it’s when people get together, and that’s great and I love them, and I love each and every holiday for different reasons. But for me, we’re here–TC Jewfolk is here–because of Shavuot. Because of the faith that our ancestors had in The Almighty and that we continue to have. Shavuot’s where it’s at! LOL!
Judy: I love going out to really good restaurants with my friends. I love watching my husband [Jeff Victor] play whenever he has gigs. He’s a musician. I dunno–just sort of living my life.
TCJ: Finally, give us one more reason why you’re folking awesome!
Judy: Because I love life! I just see the opportunity in experiencing life at its fullest.Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!