Volunteer Spotlight: Simona Bogode, Emanuel Eeshas
Born in the former Soviet Union, Simona Bogode found her Jewish home at Emanuel Congregation in 2020. Since then, she’s been an active member and volunteer with the Emanuel Eeshas.
“My parents grew up not really being able to practice Judaism,” she says. “Growing up we knew we were Jewish, but other than attending High Holidays, we didn’t really connect much more. I did however get to go to Camp Chi! When I was 20, I went on my birthright trip and had a profound connection with my Jewish identity. After that, I tried to build a more Jewish community for myself. I volunteered at lot with the JCC, Jewish Vocational Services (an organization that really helped my family members when we first came here), and the JUF Uptown Cafe. However, I still was not feeling that community connection or real belonging.”
In 2019, Simona and her son found themselves alone at a children’s service at some family friends’ congregation. She realized then that she “really craved belonging and sincere connection so that’s when I started looking for a congregation my family could call home.” She and her family joined Emanuel in September 2020.
After Simona organized a virtual tour in memory of the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sarabeth Salzman, executive director of Emanuel Congregation, called her and recommended she check out the Emanuel Eeshas.
“The women who are part of were involved with the Eeshas have been some of the most welcoming, supportive, and inspiring women I have ever met,” says Simona. “I really just feel that the Eeshas are such a strong force for good. The main force has always been community building and connecting as Jewish women. I didn’t really have a lot of that in my life before. It’s amazing to just be around such smart, talented women who are also amazing mothers.
Last summer, the Eeshas crashed her wedding to host a brunch for Simona and her husband and to welcome them as a new married couple.
As a member of the Eeshas, Simona appreciates the “soul-sharing honesty that both myself and others have written for the Eesha newsletter” and the group’s events.
“I love the Women & Wisdom series that Heather and Cantor host monthly. I am currently finalizing details for a tour and workshop of Maya Romanoff, where my friend and fellow member Michael Gutwaks is president. Amy Smolensky is working on a wine tasting event, and I think that will be a great opportunity to come together as well.”
Outside of Emanuel Congregation, Simona enjoys cycling and weightlifting and recently started kung fu classes. After the pandemic started, she left her full-time job as a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant to help her son with remote learning.
“My family loves to travel and explore,” says Simona. “I love being a mother and a wife and supporting my family as well as spending quality time with them. I’m the mom showing up with a protein shake and jetting my active 8-year-old off to boxing class. I am very active with my son’s school being the vice president of the PTA as well as on the Jog-a-Thon committee and the auction committee.”
Additionally, Simona works as an Arbonne consultant and started doing food photography for local restaurants to use on their websites and social media accounts.