Today is February 21, 2020 -

A (fitness) first for the Miriam Initiative 

by Ozzie Nogg

In the Middle Ages, long before resistance bands, home treadmills or gym memberships, Moses Maimonides — rabbi, philosopher and brilliant physician — advocated for the benefits of exercise. “Those who engage in vigorous or gentle movement or a combination of the two will increase their health and strength,” he wrote.

Inspired by his advice, Beth El Synagogue’s Miriam Initiative will debut A Fitness Sampler on Sunday, November 17, from 10:00 a.m. to noon at the Jewish Community Center. The event will offer samplings of Yoga (led by Shiri Philips), Jazzercise (led by Caryn Scheer) and Tai Chi (led by Beth Staenberg), and is free of charge and open to all women in the Jewish community.

““The idea came from our Design Team, and it’s genius,” said Joanie Jacobson, general chairperson of the Initiative. “How many of us have said, ‘I think I’d like Yoga but I’ve never tried it’ or ‘Jazzercise looks  fun — I don’t know why I don’t sign up’ or ‘My best friend thinks I’d love Tai Chi but I don’t know that much about it?’ Wonder no more. Problem solved.

Fitness Sampler will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m.,” Jacobson continued, “and will feature three 25-minute sessions in rotation with two 10-minute passing periods. The first rotation running from 10:15 a.m. to 10:40 a.m., the second rotation from 10:50 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., and the third from 11:25 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. A participant can sample all three disciplines or just two or even one depending on her curiosity,” Jacobson explained. “Shiri, Caryn and Beth are terrific at what they do. Pick your pleasure, pick your time — you’ll be glad you did. Plus, we’ll give away some great raffle prizes, including gift certificates for two months of free Jazzercise, two weeks of free yoga at Karma, and more.”

Yoga instructor Shiri Phillips has actively practiced yoga for over eleven years and fully embraces its spiritual and physical benefits. “The practice has brought me peace in needed times,” Shiri said, “and I believe Yoga has the power to heal from the inside out. If our bodies and minds are at peace with ourselves then we can carry that onto others around us. I strive to bring this mantra to every class I teach. My passion is to give back to the community and serve others.” Shiri Phillips is a 500 hour Registered and certified yoga teacher and currently part of the teaching family at Pranam Yoga Shala, a donation-based, breath, and alignment-centered Yoga Studio in Omaha’s Blackstone District.

To quote Caryn Scheer, “I started going to Jazzercise classes about ten years ago and immediately loved it. Dancing for exercise is much more exciting than going to the gym or running on a treadmill. There is such positive energy in the room, and I love being surrounded by other women who enjoy music and movement. About three years ago I decided to take it to the next level by becoming  an instructor. Trying a sample class will erase any preconceived notions you may have about Jazzercise Believe me, this is not your Grandma’s Jazzercise, and there are no leg warmers like all the movies suggest. I hope my enthusiasm toward dance is contagious and inspires others to get fit, let go of their inhibitions, and have fun.” Caryn Scheer keeps participants dancing up a storm at two different Jazzercise locations — 156th and Maple and 132nd and Center — where she leads both one hour and thirty minute express classes in high impact and low impact.

The ancient Chinese practice, Tai Chi, suites Beth Staenberg. “I particularly enjoy Tai Chi because it helps us all slow down in this fast paced world,” Beth said. “It works on pairing breath with movement and can be viewed as a moving meditation. Tai Chi also helps with balance, joint mobility, endurance and strength, and promotes healthy body work without over-doing. I hope this Miriam Initiative sample of Tai Chi gives participants a chance to decide if they enjoy the practice enough to find an on-going class. I also hope they’ll find  a bit of calm and quiet to carry them through the rest of their day.” Beth Staenberg has worked as an occupational therapist for over thirty years, and has taught Tai Chi and Qi Gong for more than ten years. You can find Beth, slowly and serenely helping others go through the moves, at the JCC and at Karma Yoga on 156th and Dodge.

Registration is preferred in order to determine class sizes. To register for the November 17 Fitness Sampler, please go to the Beth El website: or call Robby Erlich for details: 402-492-8550.

The Miriam Initiative is an ongoing series of projects and programs created and implemented by Beth El women. The Initiative welcomes all women who want to participate at any level from leadership to fellowship.

Click here to register for the Miriam Initiative Fitness Sampler.