The Book of Esther: A Priestess Purim with Roseanne Barr and Edge-Walking Friends

Mar 14, 2014 - Mar 16, 2014

Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT

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Led by Roseanne Barr and Taya Shere

with Special Guests Mehnaz Afridi, Beejhy Barhany, Geraldine Barr, Haifa Bint-Kadi, Brandi Brown, Erika Davis, Sabrina Sojourner, Ariel Vegosen, and Y-Love


Experience Purim as it was meant to be—The Revelation of the Queen, as Roseanne Barr and a dynamic group of women leaders explore the concept of female divinity in the Age of Aquarius, complete with interfaith friends, meditation, Megillah reading, and abundant merriment. Discover new wrinkles in the mysteries contained within the Book of Esther, who She was, and what She represents to us. Explore the Queen, her lineage, her power as the InDwelling Priestess, as we study her and the words of the book of Esther for Meaning and Direction.

This is an adults-only retreat open to participants of all gender identities, sexual orientations, and religious beliefs. The weekend will be an opportunity to learn, have fun, and celebrate Purim in community with Roseanne and friends. As befitting for Purim, humor will permeate the weekend, but please note that this is not a Roseanne Barr comedy show.

Roseanne Barr, an American actress, comedian, writer, television producer, director, and self-defined kabbalist and mystic meditator matriarchist, began her career in stand-up comedy at clubs before gaining fame for her role in the sitcom Roseanne, for which she won both an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. She has released children’s DVDs, performed comedy specials and at festivals, hosted talent searches, and appeared in a documentary about comedy and in commercials. She currently hosts a weekly radio show in Los Angeles and is filming a reality show about her life on a Hawaiian nut farm. The granddaughter of Eurasian immigrants, Barr was the oldest of four children in a working-class Jewish Salt Lake City family.

Holly Taya Shere plays passionately in the realms of transformative ritual and embodied vocalization. She is co-founder of the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute and serves as rabbi/spiritual leader at Olney Kehila Congregation in Olney, MD. Her chant albums Torah Tantrika, Halleluyah All Night and Wild Earth Shebrew have been heralded as “cutting-edge mystic medicine music.” She is co-author of The Hebrew Priestess (forthcoming, Ben Yehuda Press) and Siddur HaKohanot: A Hebrew Priestess Prayerbook. Taya dances home between a magic cottage in Oakland and ceremonial land near Washington, DC. holytaya.com.

Mehnaz Afridi is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Center at Manhattan College. Many of Dr. Afridi’s publications have focused on themes of Muslim identity with an emphasis on the way that anti-Semitism has been expressed by her contemporaries. Her recent research projects focus on Europe and Islam, as well as Muslims and Jews in Italian culture. Dr. Afridi has taught at Antioch University, National University, American Intercontinental University, and Loyola Marymount University. She has been invited by the University of Munich to present her work on Egypt: A Nexus of Anti-Semitism and has published an article entitled Sacred Tropes: The Qur’an Cruel or Compassionate, published by Brill. Her current book project is The Shoah Through Muslim Eyes.

Beejhy Barhany fled her native Ethiopia by the time she was 7, walking with her family and 300 villagers to Sudan, where they started a new life. After a few years they left again, this time taking a Jeep through the jungles of Kenya, on to Uganda, France and finally to Israel, which even at that young age she remembers was “like fulfilling a dream after exile.” She quickly made the transition into Israeli life, and at 22 visited New York, where she also felt at home. But when she moved here, she searched for agencies to help Ethiopian Jews making the transition and found nothing. So in 2003 she founded Beta Israel of North America (BINA), a cultural organization for Ethiopian Jews. The cultural foundation helps Ethiopian Jews adjust to life in America and is dedicated to increasing knowledge and understanding of Ethiopian Jews through education workshops, a lecture series, and cultural activities.

Geraldine Barr is a writer and humorist in San Rafael California, a pursuit she is continuously trying to make a living from. She is also CEO of her homestead, where her time is spent managing, directing, and ensuring that her company of thirty years (consisting of twin 12-year-old daughters, a designer dog, and her partner) are successful, thriving members of society. Geraldine is best known to her friends and family for her wise counsel, her pumpkin no-fat, no-sugar, no-hydrogenated swimmer cookies (8 grams of protein per cookie) and her weekly commentary on the Torah portion. She sells avocados at the farmers market and creates community gardens.

Haifa Bint-Kadi holds an M.F.A. and has been designing and fabricating public art mosaics since 1993. She was recently commissioned by the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to fabricate a large installation for their 2014 Muslim Cultures exhibit and is currently working a painting series titled Burqa Fun. Bint-Kadi facilitates peace between Muslims and Jews with the Dialogue Project in Brooklyn and is a teaching artist with City Lore and The Hudson River museum. Bint-Kadi is a feminist Muslim and is excited to present the Islamic interpretation on the Book of Esther.

Brandi Brown, at age 3, created a meditation room in her closet so she could talk to G-d daily. These sessions and her journey as an reunified adoptee has allowed her to understand the universal lessons that bind us all. Brandi is a writer, Reiki Master, producer, and co-host of Time Out Seat, a radio show focusing on personal accountability and how each of us can help bring about Tikkun Olam. Brandi works with non-profits focusing on humanitarian causes, and one of her passions is studying Jewish and other mystical teachings and making the connection of how they relate to our daily lives and create a framework for us to connect to our higher purpose.

Erika Davis, a native of Toledo, Ohio, left the Buckeye State after college for the bright lights and high-fashion Big City where she worked for over a decade as an HR manager for a handful of retail heavy-hitters. In the months leading up to her conversion on August 17, 2011, Erika realized that her talents would be best suited within the Jewish community. She worked as a Program Associate for Pursue, a project of AJWS, and on AJWS’s Where Do You Give campaign before joining Hazon as Chief of Staff in 2012. Erika’s happy to be back in Human Resources as Hazon’s HR Administrator. Creating inclusive and diverse Jewish communities is a personal passion which manifests in writing and maintaining her website, Black, Gay and Jewish. Erika is currently working on a memoir and is toying with the idea of penning a children’s book. She has spoken on panels at the Hetrick Martin Institute and was featured on Radio 613 Erika volunteers for The Jewish Multiracial Network and for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). Erika is a fair-weather cyclist, yogi, and former long-distance runner, foodie home-chef who dreams of one day living on many acres raising goats and chickens and tending to a large garden with her partner.

Sabrina Sojourner is a former “Shadow” U.S. Representative for the District of Columbia and a nationally recognized educator on diversity and multiculturalism. As past Director of Diversity Programs and Woman of Color Programs for the National Organization for Woman, she has developed a variety of programs, workshops, and presentations that focus on building bridges of understanding across differences, including race, gender, and sexual orientation. Currently, Sabrina is a spiritual counselor, life coach, and shliach tzibur, working with individuals, families, organizations, and communities to enhance communication, goal assessment, and effectiveness. Sabrina has a Masters in Transformative Leadership and Social Change from Tai Sophia Institute, and has studied with Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal and the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Ariel Vegosen is an educator, activist, dialogue facilitator, performance artist, PR expert, and writer. Ariel is the founder of Gender Blender, an organization dedicated to creating safe spaces for trans and gender queer people. Ariel has organized and facilitated programs for the Teva Learning Alliance, Nehirim, Keshet, Jewish Funds for Justice, American Jewish World Service, the Community of Living Traditions, an interfaith farming community, and many more. Ariel’s work to label and ban GMOs is taking her to India. She is currently training to be a Hebrew Priestess as part of the Kohenet program and serves on the board of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Ariel is well known for making standing up for justice fun, theatrical, and full of glitter.

Y-Love, known for years as the world’s first African-American Orthodox hip-hop artist and now the first artist to come out of the closet before an album release, is no stranger to the progressive political arena. He was featured on the campaign YouTube of Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schulz (D-FL) in 2011, and he has been a repeated invitee of Pres. Shimon Peres to the Israeli Presidential Conference since 2009. When Y-Love released his first mixtape in 2005, the world took note of the first African-American Orthodox hip-hop artist. Called a “crossover success” by the Jerusalem Post for branching out from the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community to which he converted in 2000, Y-Love made waves in 2012 when he became the first hip-hop artist to come out of the closet as gay before an album release. Y-Love’s coming out announcement debuted at #1 on OUT Magazine’s Out.com and was front-page news on CNN. Y-Love is listed as an “Up and Coming Out-and-Proud LGBT rapper” by Russell Simmons’ GlobalGrind. The world’s first black “Jewish MC,” Y-Love has been featured in hundreds of forums including Conan O’Brien, USA Today, XXL Magazine, The Australian, and Italy’s La Repubblica. He is also the subject of a new documentary entitled “Y-Love” debuting nationally later this year. thisisylove.com

Friday, March 14, 2014

  • Kabbalat Shabbat: Welcoming the Queen
  • Unraveling the Mysteries of The Book of Esther:
  • Exploring the Queen, her Lineage, & her Power as Indwelling Priestess – Roseanne Barr, Brandi Brown, and Taya Shere
  • Sacred Priestess Dance & Late Night Meditation with Roseanne

Saturday, March 15, 2014

  • Debt Release Through the Lens of Shmita
  • Muslim Perspectives on Queen Esther – Mehnaz Afridi & Haifa Bint-Kadi
  • Jewish Diversity: LGBTQ Jews & Jews of Color – Erika Davis
  • Sheba meets Esther:  Purim in the Ethiopian Jewish Community – Beejhy Barhany
  • Gender Blending: Purim & Beyond – Ariel Vegosen
  • Exploring Female Divinity in the Age of Aquarius – Roseanne Barr, Geraldine Barr, and Taya Shere
  • Megillah Reading – Sabrina Sojourner (with commentary from Roseanne & Taya)
  • Purim Spiel
  • Y-Love Performance
  • Adloyada Costume Dance Party

Sunday, March 16, 2013

  • Hike to Overlook
  • 2nd Megillah Reading
  • Matanot La’evyonim  – JoinTogether to Make Packages for the Food Bank
  • Purim Seudah

Register by February 14th and use Discount Code EARLY to save $25.

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All-inclusive rates start at $380 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 800.398.2630 x4. 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 800.398.2630 x4.

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

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Hazon is committed to making our Transformative Experiences financially accessible to as many people as possible. We believe that participation in these kinds of events are a core feature of a healthy and sustainable Jewish community in the 21st century. Please note that in our efforts to provide access to our events, we must balance our ability to meet individual requests with our ability to spread our resources among as many participants as possible. You can help support us in this endeavor by considering your request carefully.

Financial Aid is given on a per-retreat basis and ranges from 10% – 50% off our regular rates. Please submit your application prior to registering.


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