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Aspiring to Inspire

Rhona Lewis

Some people live interesting lives. Some people make others’ lives interesting. In Lisa Ramm, the two go hand in hand. Traveling across the world, discovering Judaism in Africa, and influencing others to join her in her quest, are all strands in her remarkable journey.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I met Lisa fifteen years ago when my husband and I returned to my childhood home in Kenya to visit my parents. While most of the members of the Nairobi Hebrew Congregation place themselves in the “traditional” camp, it stands to their merit that the shul itself can be called Orthodox. It was in this setting that Lisa began to connect more strongly to her roots. Ever on the lookout for more spirituality, both for herself and the shul members, Lisa had asked my husband to give a shiur in the community hall. It was there that I met this enthusiastic woman, all fired up about Yiddishkeit.

Shortly after that visit, we hosted Lisa’s son in our home in Beit Shemesh. Brendan spent his first few days in Israel with us, while Lisa’s arrival was delayed as she was volunteering in the Epulu forest in Zaire. The forest is home to the endangered okapi, an animal that looks like a cross between a zebra and a giraffe. Lisa finally arrived in Israel laden with gifts: a painting she had done, a rattle made of reeds and beans, a set of tiny hippos. Her need to give quite obviously extended beyond preservation campaigns.

I had already seen that Lisa was impassioned, but when she sparkled into my life this second time, I realized that she was exhilaration embodied. Over the next fifteen years, our friendship deepened and Lisa’s vitality continued to shimmer despite the challenges she encountered. Marching through life alone, how did she remain inspired and ready to give? How does she pass this inspiration on to others?


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