“Every woman has a fire within her, something she wants to share with the world. And when she makes that happen, she’ll feel happy and fulfilled.” Dana Gabbai’s eyes flash with passion as she says this.
Dana is a life coach, and she also runs one of Temech’s networking groups. This one has an interesting twist: it’s comprised entirely of baalos teshuvah.
Dana knows well the unique struggles baalos teshuvah face. At a teen, she was a chareidi high school girl while most of her nuclear family was irreligious. But she clung to her ideals and dreamed big.
“I knew I wanted to marry an avreich and have fifteen kids,” she says. She fulfilled most of that dream. By nineteen she was married to a full-time learner. And today, she’s the proud mother of thirteen children — and one adorable granddaughter.
Dana’s first encounter with Temech was as a participant in a networking group for therapists and coaches.
“The group helped me believe in myself,” she shares. “It gave me confidence in what I had to offer. And it was an excellent networking opportunity. We regularly referred clients to each other.” When the first group ended, she joined a second one, gaining additional skills and tools.
“Women come to me in tough places. They’ll say, ‘I have a problem.’ Or, even worse, ‘I’m a problem.’
“My first message to them is: you have so many strengths, so much power. Let’s focus on your gifts first, and then we can figure out how to use those talents and skills to tackle your problem.”
Her skills were tested during corona. Women were unraveling from the stress. Dana herself was living in a 680-square foot apartment with thirteen children. She dug deep, and did a lot of inner work so she could continue to emotionally support both her family and her clients.
“I look back and have no idea how I did that,” she admits. “Since then, I’ve done mindset work inviting abundance. Today, we live in a two-story home and have a car. There’s so much blessing if you open yourself up to it.”
A few months ago, Temech invited Dana to lead a group dedicated to baalos teshuvah. It includes a therapist, a personal chef, a photographer, a gym teacher, an actress, and a home organizer. They come from as far as Kiryat Gat, Moshav Ahisamakh, Teveria.
“Even if you’ve been religious for decades, there’s a part of you that still feels like an outsider,” she says. “In addition, you don’t have a family you can rely on for support, encouragement, and practical help.
“This group addresses both those issues. Here, everyone traveled the same path as you; they understand you. And they provide support and cheer you on.”
Baalei teshuvah also have unique internal debates. Many of them were well-educated professionals when they became frum. Wanting to discard their old lifestyle, some threw out the baby with the bathwater, stunting their talents and hiding their degrees.
“They may have believed that they were ‘supposed to’ live in poverty,” Dana explains. “Until, one day, it becomes unbearable, and they want to reclaim the lost pieces of themselves.”
In the group, the women explore what they left, what they want to revive, how to get past inner and outer blocks. “There’s a lot of raw honesty in my group. Finally, here’s a place where you don’t need to wear a mask. You can say, ‘I only had two clients this month,’ and we’ll still love you. You can share your confusion.”
Dana is also offering each participant two private sessions with her, to help them jump-start their businesses.
“Do you know what’s the flame inside me?” Dana asks as we wind down our conversation. “I want every single woman to feel that she can make her dream come true. We may need to personalize it, we may need to refocus it, but no one should ever tuck away her dreams.”