Leslie Windman: A Maryland chiropractor making adjustments in Israel

Before Leslie Windman moved to Israel with her husband, Michael, in December 2021, only one other chiropractor in the region specialized in the Atlas Orthogonal technique to adjust misalignment in the upper cervical spine region.

“There were maybe 1,000 in the United States, and now I’m one of two in the entire Middle East; the other is in Dubai,” Windman said.

During the war, she’s been using this skill – honed over 30 years of practice in Maryland – as a volunteer, easing aches and pains for soldiers serving across Israel.

Volunteering to help IDF soldiers

It started when she accompanied her only child, Rochelle, to visit Rochelle’s husband, Yehonatan, at a training base at the beginning of the war.

“I always bring my equipment with me. Rochelle saw a soldier she knew and asked him if he needed an adjustment. Three hours later, we’d adjusted the entire unit. We did that a few times at different bases,” she recounted.

A 3D image of a human spinal cord. (credit: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A fellow chiropractor, Tova Goldfine, told Windman about Chayal’s Angels. This group of complementary medicine and alternative therapy practitioners travels to bases treating troops for free. Windman soon became an active member.

“The soldiers need it so desperately. One time, a soldier said to me, ‘I want you to see a picture of my newborn son’ – a baby he hadn’t met yet. Looking at that picture, the two of us started crying. I love these incredible soldiers so much; they come to us with such love and appreciation,” she said. “Now my next goal is to start taking care of the wives and children of soldiers in the community.”

WINDMAN HAD her first transformational Israel experience on a tour with a Reform temple around the time of Rochelle’s bat mitzvah.

“On Shabbat, they took us to Hebrew Union College services, and it was so ethereal. I said to Michael, ‘If Shabbat is like this every week, I’m coming to live here.’ That day, I had a ‘Sinai moment’ in the HUC courtyard overlooking the Old City. I went home and I cried for three weeks straight. I sought out different rabbis to help me understand what happened to me. That started the journey,” she said.

“I started volunteering in many different Jewish organizations, and I started to study with a Chabad rabbi in Baltimore, who helped me through that experience spiritually.”

Rochelle was similarly moved. At 17, she spent half a year in Israel on an exchange program, and then expressed her desire to serve in the IDF. Her parents agreed, if she’d first finish college in the US. That she did, and nine years ago she made aliyah with the Garin Tzabar program for lone soldiers. For the next seven years, her parents visited her four times a year.

“Michael had volunteered on an army base through Sar-El right out of college, 40 years ago, and he had a card in his photo album from that trip congratulating a soldier for completing military service. He gave our daughter that card the day she was discharged.”

On their frequent trips, Windman hiked throughout Israel and deepened her connection to the land. And although her husband wasn’t as enthusiastic as she was about aliyah, she said “We both felt we needed to be present for the future of the family.”

Landing in Israel two months before their first grandchild was born, the Windmans settled into a Jerusalem apartment near their daughter and son-in-law. Today, Windman has practices in Jerusalem and Pardess Hanna.

The events of Oct. 7 sparked a deeper level of commitment in Michael, who is also a chiropractor.

“He now feels a profound connection to the country and the people and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Windman said.

“Since the war began, we’ve been traveling the country, volunteering to treat soldiers. We also help soldiers at The Michael Levin Base in Jerusalem, and Michael has done agricultural volunteering and Sar-El, too.”

Windman didn’t have time when she first arrived in Israel to attend an ulpan, but she did sign up for weekly Israeli dance classes in Jerusalem. That was always one of her most cherished activities. “I hadn’t danced since I was a child in Hebrew school. I felt my heart and soul just totally fill up to be dancing here in Israel, and I’d walk home floating.”

But she’s not a starry-eyed freier (sucker). “I’ve learned to be Israeli. If the bus door closes on an old woman, I will bang on the door and scream at the bus driver. But my attitude is to laugh at the difficulties and adapt to the culture instead of expecting people to adapt to my American culture,” she said.

From the time she came to Israel, she felt she could be an emissary to the Americans in her social media circles. She thought about posting a video about her new life but never felt the time was right, until October 8. That day, during her morning meditation before prayer, she received clarity about the message she needed to send.

“My video said, ‘I’m here in Israel and I’m not asking for money. I’m just asking you to look inside yourself and allow your deep Jewish essence and soul to become alive, whether you’re religious or not. Whatever makes you feel connected to the Jewish people, do it. Whether it’s drinking Israeli wine, listening to Israeli music, doing Israeli dancing, learning Hebrew or Torah, joining a shul, a Jewish organization or a Jewish book club, do something to reconnect with your Jewish soul because this is how we will strengthen one another.’

“People contacted me, crying. I had the most liberal faraway Jews contacting me, saying that something had been lit inside them. I had given a voice to what they were feeling.”

Whereas she sometimes felt like “that crazy Jew” in the US, Windman said that in Israel, everyone “got” her immediately. 

“Our aliyah is such a blessing. I’m so grateful that whatever I did in my life enabled me to be here.” ■

Leslie Windman, 60 From Clarksville, Maryland to Jerusalem, 2021