When I found out that my synagogue women's group was hosting a dinner and fashion show, I admit I wasn't overly excited about it. I've never been that into clothes or fashion and tend to be a little shy in large groups of people. But I decided to go anyway, in large part because it was a fundraiser, and also in attempt to go a little beyond my comfort zone.
It turned out to be a spiritually uplifting evening, and I was glad I went.
The clothing in the fashion show was all modest yet very stylish, showing that you don't have to wear skimpy clothes to look good, and that there's actually a deeper meaning behind the styles we choose.
Rebbetzin Chanie Adler with Young Israel-Chabad of Pinellas spoke about the connection between the fashion show and this week's Torah portion (the Torah, or Bible, is divided into 52 sections and one is read and studied each week).
In the Torah that week, it explains in intricate detail the clothing that the High Priest in Jerusalem wore, which at first glance can seem a little shallow, much like my original feelings about a fashion show.
But clothes are more than what we wear, Adler said. "Clothing is a paradox. It conceals you, but also reveals a lot about your personality. Clothing expresses the essence of our soul."
In Jewish mysticism, it is said that we have a body and a soul, and what we eat, speak and wear links the two.
It was not just the High Priest who revealed the essence of his soul and his connection to God through his clothing. We can, too.
Jewish men and boys wear yarmulkes, or skull caps, for example. And religious Jewish women traditionally wear shirts past the elbow and skirts past the knee, which may sound a little out of style or boring, but in most cases they simply look well dressed to the untrained eye.
"Dress plays a very important role in Jewish tradition," Adler said. It's about being stylish, while revealing more of the soul that's within us, she said.
The three-hour dinner and show, held Monday at the Crescent Oaks Country Club off Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs, drew about 80 women and girls from Pinellas and Pasco counties.
The delicious meal was prepared by Sylvia Cohen and Dana Nabaa, the only caterers in the area who adhere to the stricter glatt kosher standards.
Rayana Piesco-Williams, owner of the Material Girl II boutique in Trinity, provided the clothing and donated half of her proceeds to the synagogue. She said she prides herself on helping women look their best without having to spend a lot of money.
"We can be women and we can be beautiful and feel proud of ourselves," she said.
Gayle Benet, who lives in Crescent Oaks, poured hours of her time into organizing the event the past five months.
"We're just a fun bunch of women," she said of the synagogue women's group. "I thought it turned out really well. It wasn't heavy, everyone was relaxed and just being themselves."
And the date they chose for the event turned out to be serendipitous.
"There's no coincidence in life, things happen for a reason," Benet said.
Mindy Rubenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.