Uprooted began by Dalia Davis as a personal response to the challenges of living amidst the Jewish community while struggling to conceive. She searched but failed to find sources of emotional and spiritual support within the Jewish community, which she attributed to a lack of awareness and understanding about fertility challenges. When turning to biblical text for support, a cursory reading of the fertility journeys seems to imply that G-d had sealed the women’s wombs and after they prayed G-d granted them a child. This understanding of these narratives can lead one to wonder why G-d is not answering their prayers and to feel shame and self-blame. Dali wanted to share a deeper, more nuanced version of these narratives; one that would resonate with women of the modern day who were struggling, thus bringing them closer to Judaism rather than pushing them further away.
As a dancer, Davis envisioned a performance piece to express the fertility narrative of both Biblical and contemporary women. She imagined the piece could initiate social change, traveling to various communities and generating discussion and reflection based on an accompanying guide. She named this vision The Akara Project (akara is the term used in the Bible for a woman who is struggling to conceive). In 2014 she was chosen as a PresenTense Fellow in New York City and over the course of her fellowship the project was renamed Uprooted. The root of akara is l’akor which means to uproot–and uprooted truly describes the experience of many people who struggle to conceive. They feel uprooted from their body, from their family, from their vision for their future. Moreover, they feel uprooted from the Jewish community, the very community which should be a source of stabilization comfort and strength. Dr. Aviva Zornberg had created this term and gave Dalia permission to use it as the name.
After the completion of the PresenTense Fellowship experience, Davis connected with former colleague Becca Shimshak, who added opportunities for growth on a national scale as well as locally to initiate a mentoring program. Uprooted took off, re-envisioning itself as a national pluralistic organization with a broader healing reach. In 2015, Becca organized Uprooted’s first retreat that allowed women from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Florida. That cohort then developed into Uprooted’s current board and advisors.