Jewish Intentional Communities Conference

Dec 1, 2016 - Dec 4, 2016

Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT

register now

Moving from an experience in life to a life experience



presented in partnership with

ADAMAHlogosmallest teva-logo-square2  Repair the World  Pearlstone Center Moishe House  Avodah logo  Yahel habonim_dror_350x392



How do your experiences, plans, and dreams fit into the world of Jewish intentional community?

This year’s conference theme is: From an Experience in Life to a Life Experience.

We begin the conference by exploring the growing enthusiasm in the Jewish world about formative “experiences in life” such as temporary intentional communities – fellowships, gap-year programs, and residential activist immersions. We will then explore how the lessons we are learning from these temporary communities can lead to long-term “life experiences.”

The best practices, tools, and perspectives which emerge from these explorations will culminate in a participatory full-conference workshop to map the ecosystem of intentional community models – opening real possibilities of a diverse spectrum of Jewish intentional communities where we can put down roots and raise up families.

Your participation includes the full range of programming and workshops – three open Shabbat service options (Orthodox, Traditional Egalitarian, and Renewal), JOFEE activities, yoga classes, and Camp Teva for kids ages 5-12 – as well as Farm-to-Table Kosher feasts and a number of room options. Need-based financial aid available.

Is this conference for me?

  • Yes, if you live in or have ever lived in temporary intentional community.
  • Yes, if you live in or want to live in longer-term intentional community.
  • Yes, if you’re curious about what living in intentional community might mean in a Jewish context.
  • Yes, if you want to engage with a growing access point for Jewish engagement.

What will we do?

  • Have fun. In addition to enjoying each other’s company in a beautiful place, we will celebrate Shabbat in a pluralistic Jewish community with both traditional and egalitarian prayer service options, and eat delicious homemade farm-to-table food.
  • Create an ecosystem-map.  As a whole retreat group, we will engage in a facilitated exercise in mapping the many models of Jewish intentional community as an ecosystem – examining how various styles of community each contribute to the larger, interconnected world of intentional community. This is an opportunity to get our hands dirty and minds buzzing as we envision actual communities.
  • Learn from each other. The JICC is a forum to develop a “community of practice,” where we get to share our resources with each other. We will gain skills and knowledge from each other as we look to strengthen our own communities. We will also learn about the Israel-based mission-driven intentional communities movement. Stay tuned for a schedule of learning sessions and workshops.

Cheryl CookCheryl Cook joined Avodah as the Executive Director at the beginning of 2015 and has over twenty five years of leadership experience as a manager, fundraiser, and program planner in the Jewish community. She’s worked across the innovative sector of the Jewish community – at Hazon, Makor, New Israel Fund, JESNA, Hillel, and the 92nd Street Y – and is proud to lead Avodah’s work shaping Jewish leaders to be social changemakers. Cheryl is passionate about creating a vibrant Jewish community that opens doors, engages people from across all backgrounds and plays a significant role in making the world a more just and caring place for everyone. Aside from her professional work, Cheryl serves on the board of PS/MS 282 PTO. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their two sons within an incredible village of family and friends.


David CygielmanDavid Cygielman is the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Moishe House. He has been a non-profit innovator since high school when he started Feed the Need, a nationally recognized homeless feeding organization. While attending the University of California at Santa Barbara, David served as the Hillel Student President and later the Executive Director of the Forest Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping college and high school students develop leadership qualities while following their passions. In 2006, he helped establish Moishe House and became the organization’s first CEO. Through his work in the Jewish community, David has garnered many honors including the Avi Chai Fellowship, the JCSA Young Leadership Award, and the Bernard Reisman Award for Professional Excellence. In 2013, David was the recipient of UCSB Hillel’s inaugural Alumni Achievement Award. David graduated with honors from UCSB with a BA in Business Economics. When he’s out of the office, David enjoys playing basketball, spending time with friends, and traveling to destinations with no dress code. David currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife Myka and their dog Binx.


Liz FisherElizabeth (Liz) Fisher is the Chief Operating Officer at Repair the World, where she is responsible for overseeing all of the organization’s development, communications, finance, operations, and human resources. Prior to Repair the World, Liz was Managing Director at NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation, where she led the organization in strategy, operations, and talent management. Liz began her career in grassroots community development in rural Missouri. She moved into working in the Jewish community with roles at the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, UJA-Federation of New York, and The Jewish Education Project. Liz’s passion is the role of people in organizational life. She loves working with partners, lay leaders, and professional staff. Liz has a Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis with a focus in community development and management and is a Schusterman Fellow. She is a fan of Brooklyn (where she lives with her husband and two children), an amateur runner and bread baker, and an avid reader of periodicals.


aharon-laviAharon Ariel Lavi is a serial social entrepreneur and a well-established community development professional, who believes that networks are the key to shaping our reality in the upcoming generation. He is one of the founders and leaders of the Nettiot Mission-Driven Communities Network, reengaging Haredi ba’aley teshuva into Israeli society. He is also founder of Garin Shuva, a Jewish eco-mission-driven-community on the Gaza border, and co-founder and Director of Partnerships for the National Council of Mission-Driven Communities. As founder of the Hakhel project, Aharon is also involved in developing similar Jewish intentional communities in North America. He is also the founder and general director of several unique social businesses in Israel, among them Hitzim, a mobile JCC based in the Negev, and the Rakee’a Institute that develops groundbreaking curriculum for Haredi schools integrating Torah and secular studies. Aharon holds a B.A. in economics and an M.A. in history, philosophy and sociology of science, and is currently writing his Ph.D. in public policy. He is a fellow in several research institutions in Israel and the author of a book on Judaism and economics, as well as numerous articles. In 2013-14 Aharon was a Tikvah Fund fellow in New York. He lives with his wife Liat and their four children in Shuva.


rabbijessicameyerRabbi Jessica Kate Meyer is part of the rabbinic team at Romemu. She was ordained June 2014 by Hebrew College Rabbinical School.  She strives to build community through prayerful music, and music through prayerful community. During her rabbinic training she developed family programming for Temple Beth Zion in Brookline, MA, interned for a Masorti community in Tel Aviv, and directed leadership programs for the non-profit organization Encounter, in Jerusalem. Jessica has performed as a vocalist with Hankus Netsky, Frank London, and Yuval Ron, and studied and performed sacred Jewish music with rabbis and paytanim while living in Jerusalem. After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies, Jessica pursued graduate theater training in London, and appeared in many film, theater, and television projects in Europe and the United States: most notably, as a principal role in Roman Polanski’s The Pianist.


2016-jicc_james-grant-rosenheadJames Grant-Rosenhead is a founding member of Kibbutz Mishol, the biggest urban kibbutz in Israel. James was born in Leeds, England, in 1974. He became active as a Jewish Labor Zionist youth leader with Habonim Dror (HDUK) in 1990 after his first visit to Israel. From 1992-3, James spent a year of leadership training on kibbutz in Israel, then returned and directed local branches of the youth movement around London until 1996. He completed his LL.B Hons Law degree in 1996, then served as HDUK’s national secretary until 1998. Concerned for the future of the Jewish world and Israel, and inspired by the first urban kibbutzim, James made aliyah to Jerusalem in 1999 with Kvutzat Yovel, the first Anglo olim to build a thriving urban kibbutz. From 1999-2010 James led a worldwide transformation and renewal of Habonim Dror programs, education and ideology from their traditional kibbutz bases to social activist urban kvutzot. The result is a new adult movement of urban cooperative kvutzot including olim from around the world. Since 2010, James joined the leadership of ‘Tikkun’, building new native sabra activist kibbutzim in the socio-economic and geographic peripheries, and became a founder of ‘M.A.K.O.M.’ – the National Council of Mission Driven Communities in Israel. James currently lives in NYC whilst serving as the Habonim Dror North America central shaliach, as a mentor for Hazon’s Hakhel and for Hillel’s Ezra Fellowship. James is married with three children.


Nigel SavageNigel Savage, originally from Manchester, England, founded Hazon in 2000, with a Cross-USA Jewish Environmental Bike Ride. Since then, Hazon has grown the range and impact of its work in each successive year; today it has more than 60 staff, based in New York City, at Hazon’s Isabella Freedman campus, and in other locations across the country. Hazon plays a unique role in renewing American Jewish life and creating a healthier and more sustainable world for all.

Hazon is one of a tiny handful of groups to have been in the Slingshot 50 every year since inception, and in 2008, Hazon was recognized by the Sierra Club as one of 50 leading faith-based environmental organizations.

Nigel has spoken, taught, or written for a wide and significant range of audiences. (A selection of his essays are at He has twice been named a member of the Forward 50, the annual list of the 50 most influential Jewish people in the United States, and is a recipient of the Bernard Reisman Award. He has given Commencement speeches at Wagner (NYU, in 2011) and at Hornstein (Brandeis, in 2014). In 2015 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Jewish Theological Seminary.

Before founding Hazon, Nigel was a professional fund manager in London, where he worked for NM Rothschild and was co-head of UK Equities at Govett. He has an MA in History from Georgetown, and has learned at Pardes, Yakar, and the Hebrew University. He was a founder of Limmud NY, and serves on the board of Romemu.

Nigel executive produced the British independent movies Solitaire For 2 and Stiff Upper Lips and had an acclaimed cameo appearance in the cult Anglo-Jewish comic movie, Leon The Pig Farmer. He is believed to be the first English Jew to have cycled across South Dakota on a recumbent bike.


janna headshotJanna Siller leads the Adamah crew in growing organic vegetables for CSA distribution, value-added production, Isabella Freedman food service, and donations, while maintaining the fields as resonant learning space for fellows and visitors. She teaches classes on practical farming and gardening skills as well as classes that explore the big picture systems, policies and issues that shape what we eat and how it is grown. Janna lives in Falls Village with her family- Arthur, Tzuf, and the cats.



casey-bio-pic-twoCasey Baruch Yurow currently serves as Program Director at the Pearlstone Center in Reisterstown, MD. Casey has held leadership roles in the field of Jewish outdoor, food, and environmental education for over ten years with the Teva Learning Center, Urban Adamah, Wilderness Torah, and Eden Village Camp. Casey believes deeply in the power of nature connection and hands-on learning to revitalize healthy human culture and community. He earned a B.Sc in Environmental Science from the University of Maryland and spent two years studying in yeshiva in Israel. When not at work, Casey can be found building mandolins, hiking, gardening, cooking, and inviting friends over for spirited, song-filled Shabbat meals. Casey lives with his wife Rivka outside of Baltimore and he looks forward to co-creating a new Moshav on the Pearlstone Center campus, speedily in our days.



Please check back for this growing list of educators and session leaders.


Interested in leading a session at the Jewish Intentional Communities Conference? When you register you will receive a link to a form you can fill out with your proposal. Email if you have any questions.


Click here to view the 2015 JICC schedule.

Camp Teva is for kids ages 5 – 12, and runs simultaneously with retreats geared toward adults. Camp Teva combines the best of Teva’s signature Jewish environmental education with all of the opportunities provided by the Adamah Farm to create a distinctive and creative way for kids to have a fun and safe Jewish outdoor, food, and environmental education experience while their parents are enjoying Hazon’s many retreats, conferences, holidays, and workshops at Isabella Freedman. A transformative experience for the whole family!

When you register kids during your event registration process, they are automatically enrolled in Camp Teva! All-inclusive kids’ rates include Camp Teva programming.


more information about camp teva


register now

If you’re new to Isabella Freedman, click here for information about where we’re located, arrival and departure times, what to bring, etc.

All-inclusive rates start at $400 per person. Click the “register now” button above for information, room rates, and to register online. Online registration is for full credit card payments only. If you would like to pay in installments, pay by check, or apply approved financial aid, please call 860.824.5991 x0. Please review our lodging options and rates prior to calling.

You will receive a confirmation email once you have registered and made a payment online or by phone. If you do not receive the confirmation email within 24 hours of registering, please call us at 860.824.5991 x0.

We strive to make our programs affordable to everyone.

Click here for information about Financial Aid. »
Thanks to a generous donation, the Tamar Fund was created to allow a select number of individuals to pay a discounted registration fee. The Tamar Fund is in loving memory of Tamar Bittelman z”l who attended the Hazon Food Conference in Davis, California in 2011. Torah, Jewish community, ecology, and DIY food were values that Tamar held dear in her own life, and she very much appreciated the intersection of these values at the Hazon Food Conference. Sharing a meal with Tamar, particularly a Shabbat or Chag meal, was an experience filled with kedushah, where one was effortlessly and joyfully escorted to “a different place.”

Tamar Fund scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis. Applications must be received at least three weeks prior to the start date of the retreat. Please only register after receiving a response; the scholarship will not be applied retroactively. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis; receiving a scholarship to attend does not guarantee space. Please note that scholarships cannot be combined with discounts or other promotions. If you have any questions, please contact the Registrar at or (860) 824-5991 x0.

apply for a Tamar Fund Scholarship


Check-in is from 2 to 5 pm on Thursday, December 1st, followed by a welcome and orientation. If you are arriving on a different day, you may check in with the retreat manager on duty anytime after 4 pm on your arrival day. You must be checked out of your room by 10 am on Sunday, December 4th. The retreat will come to an end with lunch on Sunday.


For those coming from the New York City area, we are conveniently located just half an hour from Wassaic Train Station, the last stop on the Harlem Line of the Metro North. We offer a shuttle service at the following times for this retreat:

  • 2:03 pm on Thursday from Wassaic Train Station to IF
  • 4:03 pm on Thursday from Wassaic Train Station to IF
  • 1:30 pm on Sunday from IF to Wassaic Train Station

If you have not already reserved shuttle service during registration, please call (860) 824-5991 ext. 0 at least a week before the start date of the retreat to reserve your spot. For those of you driving, please see our website for directions to IF.

For more information on getting here, click here.


Help to reduce the environmental impact of car trips to and from Isabella Freedman by checking out our carpool initiative! Upon registering, you will receive a link to a rideshare board so you can connect with fellow retreat participants. Offering a ride in your car will help reduce carbon emissions, cut down gas costs and make new friends! If you are looking for a ride, adding yourself to the wait list (on the right hand side of the page) is the best way to be notified when movements occur.


One of our mashgichim (kosher supervisors) must pre-approve all food items that enter the designated dining spaces. If you plan to supplement our delicious, healthy, farm-to-feast meals, your items must be completely sealed in original packaging. Unapproved food and drinks may be enjoyed anywhere on campus besides our dining spaces.


  • Reusable water bottle and/or mug. (If not, we do provide compostable cups.)

  • Over-the-counter and/or prescription medications you may need. (e.g. Tylenol, Aleve, Claritin)

  • Toiletries (We provide soap.)

  • Flashlight

  • Chargers for electronic devices. (There is WiFi in the Main Building and limited cell phone service throughout campus.)

  • Sun protection (sunblock, sunglasses, a hat)

  • Rain gear (a jacket and/or umbrella)

  • Ritual wear. (We have extra kippot and tallitot.)

  • Comfortable, loose-fitting clothes for yoga

  • Closed-toe shoes

  • Long pants or skirt and jacket

  • Snow shoes or snow boots for hiking.

  • Long underwear, wool socks, a hat that covers your ears (or a hat plus ear muffs), a heavy winter coat, thick warm gloves, and a scarf.

  • Any additional personal items you may want. (We provide linens and towels in guest rooms.)

Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Jewish Intentional Communities Initiative

As Jews, we are rediscovering our roots in intentional community. From our ancient nomadic wandering through the desert, to the shtetls of Eastern Europe, to today’s short term young adult programs like Adamah and Avodah, intentional community has been a core part of the Jewish experience. For the past several years, Hazon, Isabella Freedman, and the Pearlstone Center, with generous support from UJA-Federation of New York, have been thinking together about what it means to live in and create Jewish intentional communities, and have fostered thought leadership in the field through the annual Jewish Intentional Communities Conference.

learn more about the initiative

Other Resources

News Coverage

  Articles   Organizations Books The following books may be found at your local bookseller, or through the Fellowship for Intentional Community Bookstore:
  • Collective Visioning by Linda Stout
  • Creating a Life Together: Practical Tools to Grow Ecovillages and Intentional Communities by Diana Leafe Christian
  • Creating Cohousing by Charles Durrett and Kathryn McCamant
  • Intentional Community: An Anthropological Perspective by Susan Love Brown, Editor
  • A Manual for Group Facilitators by The Center for Conflict Resolution
  • With a Little Help from our Friends: Creating Community As We Grow Older by Beth Baker