Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Falls Village, CT
A Weekend of Jewish Song Singing and Sharing
Let My People Sing! believes in the liberatory potential of song and the importance of a vibrant Jewish singing culture.
The retreat will be structured around Shabbat, singing intensives, hour-long song sharing and teaching sessions, and community sings – with plenty of time to explore the farm, swim in the lake, or go on a hike. This year’s LMPS will include a Tisha B’Av pre-retreat Wednesday–Thursday which we hope you can join us for.
Let My People Sing! brings together singing traditions across Jewish time and space– from ancient to contemporary music, and everything in between. We sing in Ladino, Hebrew, Yiddish, Judeo-Arabic, Aramaic, and in languages from around the world— wherever Jews dwelled in diaspora, they sang, and we are still singing! Our project includes restoring lost or broken lineages of cultural and ancestral transmission, and simultaneously elevating, celebrating, learning and teaching the incredible new music coming out of our communities. Through this work we connect to our spiritual, familial and chosen ancestors, we heal trauma, and we deepen our human interconnectedness.
At Let My People Sing! everyone can be a leader and a learner of song. Our retreats are a place to practice and develop leadership and new skills with the support, mentorship, and love of the core team, the teachers, and the entire community. Our vision is for more kinds of people to learn how to embody and lead Jewish music and tradition, transforming us individually and transforming Judaism as a whole. This is a project of spreading seeds of song that go out into the world to sprout new singing communities and a justice-based singing culture far and wide. We create retreats where people can experience the potential of liberation by connecting closely in communal spaces.
*NEW* Tisha B’Av Pre-Retreat (Wed–Thursday)
Tisha B’Av (“the ninth of Av”) is a Jewish fast day that holds space for grief, mourning, and loss. This participant-led program will use prayer, song, and ritual as ways to be present to this holy day together in community.
Sessions will be led by a wide array of song leaders using a variety of formats. Some will include histories and stories, others will just be about singing the songs themselves. No instruments will be used on Shabbat unless otherwise noted.
Shabbat services will be offered Friday night and Saturday morning. There will be multiple davenning options:
Creative Minyan: This prayer option will include creative interpretations of traditional Jewish prayer structure using a variety of spiritual practices. The services
will combine singing, exploration of specific verses, instruments, and meditation. There is no Jewish prayer experience needed: this is a service that is open and
accessible to all. It is an experimental prayer space that values heart and spirit-based experience.
Traditional Egalitarian: Our traditional egalitarian services will be siddur (prayer book) based, and include a full liturgy. Services welcome people of all genders and will be songful, spirited, and participatory. We are open to anyone and everyone, regardless of background or prior experience with this kind of prayer.
Orthodox: Join us for a soul-stirring, song-infused traditional tefillah (prayer). There will be a tri-chitza, a partition separating a men’s, women’s, and all genders section.
Time to sing all together!
Jewish Outdoor, Food & Environmental Fun!
Make pickles, explore the woods, and take a tour of the farm alongside our Adamah fellows
Submit a Session Proposal
This summer’s Let My People Sing! song sessions will be entirely led by participants. We welcome all participants to submit a proposal to lead an hour-long song singing and/or sharing session. Upon registering you will have the opportunity to submit a proposal.
Wednesday, July 29 (Tisha B’Av Pre-Retreat)
Thursday, July 30 (Tisha B’Av Pre-Retreat)
Services (traditional and creative options)
Friday, July 31
10-10:30 am Welcoming Songs
10:30 am-12 pm – Song Intensive Part 1
12-1 pm – Lunch
1-2 pm – JOFEE Programming
2-3:30 pm – Opening Program
3:45-5:15 pm – Song Intensive Part 2
5-6 pm Camp Teva Kids’ Dinner
6:30-6:45 pm – Candle Lighting
6:45-8:15 pm – Kabbalat Shabbat
8:30-10 pm – Dinner
10 pm – Community Sing / Tisch
Saturday, August 1
7-8 am – Yoga
8-9:30 am – Breakfast
8:30 am-12 pm – Shabbat Services
12-1 pm – Lunch
1:45-2:45 pm – Song Session Slot 1
3-4 pm – Song Session Slot 2
4:15 -5:15 pm – Free time / Nap Time / Farm Tour / Mincha
5:30-6:30pm – Song Session Slot 3
6:45-7:45 pm – Dinner
7:45-8:45 pm – Community Sing Back / Ma’ariv
8:45 pm – Havdallah
9:30 pm – Participatory Concert
Sunday, August 2
7-8 am – Yoga / Avodat Lev / Traditional Schacharit
7:30-9 am – Breakfast
9-10:15 am – Song Session Slot 4
10:30-11:30 am – Community Sing
11:45 am-12:30 pm – Closing Circle & Sing
12:30-1 pm – Lunch
2020 Lead Teachers
Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell is a vocalist, composer, and arranger specializing in Yiddish song, twelve years after making his professional operatic debut. This work has brought him to stages in Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, New York, Tel Aviv, London, Berlin, Warsaw and Krakow, Symphony Space in NYC and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Anthony’s recent EP with klezmer trio Veretski Pass, Convergence, combines a century of African American and Ashkenazi Jewish music. He also performs in a Yiddish songwriting duo called Tsvey Brider with accordionist and keyboardist Dmitri Gaskin. Anthony lives in Massachusetts with his husband, Rabbi Michael Rothbaum. anthonyrussellbass.com
Arielle Korman played violin for Simchat Torah for the first time in the second grade (those hakafot don’t feel any less endless now that she is an adult). Jewish music has always been a part of the air she breathes. She remembers standing in the middle of her living room as a child discovering that she could belt out the niggun-inspired parts of Fiddler on the Roof most successfully when in character, adopting an over-the-top cantorial-ness. She has since changed her singing vibe quite a bit, but after a l’chaim or two, who knows what might come out? For the past few years, Arielle has been writing her own Jewish melodies and songs, sharing several at Kehilat Romemu where she is a periodic davening leader. She is a violinist, singer-songwriter, and sometimes visual artist. In 2019, she co-founded Ammud, the Jews of Color Torah Academy along with Yehudah Webster, and now serves as its Lead Organizer/Executive Director. She finds community and an organizing space at JFREJ (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice). Arielle is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Religion (Jewish Studies) at Columbia University. She gets her inspiration from loved ones, love, pre-colonial Pilipinx practice, Hebrew letters, and every dog ever.
Laura Lassy Townsend is a singer and theater artist based in Brooklyn. With Moroccan and Israeli roots, Laura blends Judeo-Arab, Middle Eastern, and Andalusian repertoires in her music. She is currently focusing on reclaiming the Sephardic liturgical tradition and secular musical heritage from a feminist standpoint. As a lead singer with NY Andalus Ensemble & ASEFA, Laura regularly performs in Hebrew, Arabic, and Ladino. Credits include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museo del Barrio, DROM, La Nacional, CUNY, BMS East & Middle East Festival, The American Sephardi Federation, JCC NYC, JCC DC, The Israeli Embassy in Washington, Vassar College, Kane Street Synagogue, Sephardic Temple of Cedarhurst, Magen David Manhattan, Mr. Rogers, Funky Joe’s, Center for Jewish History, The World Music Institute among others. lauralassytownsend.com
Itai Gal is the songwriter, singer, pianist, and accordionist of the band Itai and the Ophanim. Itai’s music is inspired by nigunim (Jewish melodies of praise), has notes of klezmer and funk, and words from traditional liturgy as well as prayers from their heart for unity among all life. They sing in Hebrew and English, often with interpretive translations and God language that affirms Divine presence of every gender. Itai creates from a place informed by their Jewish heritage, and sees their Judaism as only one language for an experience that is universal. In doing so, they hope to inspire others to embrace their roots. Itai studied music composition at SUNY Purchase and has had several music projects as a singer-songwriter and rock band keyboardist before their spiritual path led them to find their voice in sacred music. Outside of this project, you might have heard Itai leading prayer in the Boston community or songleading with children. Aside from their music life, Itai has worked in Jewish education for several years and is currently living and working at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center while playing gigs in Boston and regionally. You can listen to Itai’s album, Arise, which is out on Spotify and all other streaming platforms, and on their website, itaiandtheophanim.com.
Mónica Gomery is the granddaughter of four Holocaust survivors and was raised by her Venezuelan Ashkenazi family in Boston and Caracas. She was ordained by the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in June 2017, and currently builds queer Jewish community as the Associate Director of National Learning at SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva, and builds the songful Jewish left as the Music Director of Kol Tzedek Synagogue in Philadelphia. Mónica is passionate about supporting people who have been denied access to, disconnected from, and marginalized by ancient and ancestral spiritual traditions to gain access to these traditions as a resource for empowerment and transformation in their lives, so that they can become vessels for healing and justice in the world. She is deeply grateful to the vibrant singing community at Let My People Sing! which has enlivened in her the lost voices of her ancestors.
Ilana Lerman loves to interweave song throughout her political meetings and actions, her spiritual practice as well as her moped rides throughout Brooklyn, NY where she currently lives. Ilana is the Spiritual & Cultural Life Organizer at Jewish Voice for Peace where she feels blessed to work with visionary rabbis and ritual leaders fighting and praying for a more free and just world. Growing up surrounded by music and song, and as a graduate from Shefa Gold’s Kol Zimra program for chant leaders, Ilana is humbled by the power singing can bring to healing the brokenness in our bodies and in our world. Leading and learning through song is a gift!
Noam Lerman grew up in Milwaukee, WI announcing songs for their father’s weekly Jewish radio show, and deeply connecting to music from Jewish communities around the world. They play drum, fingerstyle guitar, mandolin, and jawharp, and they are in love with nigunim, Yiddish folk songs, and laments. Noam started Der Yiddish Tekhines Proyekt, a project where new melodies are pared with excerpts of old Yiddish women’s prayers so we can learn and chant them today. Noam is passionate about cultivating singing as a spiritual, radical, and meditative practice – one that can be a non-hierarchical collective experience for people to create intentional sacred space with their voices. They are currently a Rabbinical student at Hebrew College, and are training to be a chaplain for incarcerated and previously incarcerated individuals fighting for healing and liberation.
Batya Levine is a Jewish educator, ritual leader, facilitator, and musician. She leads spirited prayer and song in a variety of communities, including Isabella Freedman, Linke Fligl, SVARA, and Kavod Boston. She enjoys playing guitar, mandolin, and table-drumming, though voice is her primary instrument. Batya writes original music and her songs have traveled across prayer spaces and street protests, connecting people to themselves, each other, and spirit. Coming from a lineage of Jewish musicians, she has learned to use music as a powerful tool for healing and transformation. Batya is dedicated to carrying this practice forward, building resilience and interconnection on individual and communal levels. She is also an avid lover of pond swims, dance parties, and puns.
Margot Seigle is an organizer, community builder & radical dreamer who co-runs a queer Jewish chicken farm called Linke Fligl (left wing in yiddish). Margot hails from the midwest, currently lives in the Hudson Valley, and calls the queer Jewish diaspora home. Margot’s musical endeavors began at age 4 when they started learning violin by ear, and have since evolved to include song singing and leading. Since doing ADAMAH in 2012, singing has become a central tool for personal work, spiritual connection, community building, and ritual holding. Through this, Margot has witnessed the liberatory potential of song and is so grateful for the opportunity to co-create a space that holds that vision.
Our scholarship for Jews of Color, Indigenous, Sefardi & Mizrahi Jews
Thanks to community fundraising efforts, Let My People Sing! is now able to offer financial support specifically for Jews of Color, Indigenous, Sefardi, and Mizrahi Jews to come to our retreat.
One of LMPS’ primary goals is to expand the body of Jewish song that is uplifted in our communal spaces. We want our music to reflect our multiracial and diverse communities, and to reimagine who is at the center of Jewish life. We see this as necessary, given the ways that Ashkenazi heritage and whiteness have been dominant within Jewish communities particularly in the United States. Our project includes restoring lost, broken, or marginalized lineages of cultural and ancestral transmission, and simultaneously elevating and celebrating the incredible new music being created right now. We seek to lift up teachers and transmitters of traditional Mizrahi and Sefardi music, as well as Jews of Color and Indigenous Jews who are teaching and creating both old and new lineages of song. We’re excited to make it financially possible for more JOCISM to attend LMPS this year, and to support the cultural organizing and community-building that JOCISM folks are doing right now across the United States and around the world.
Every summer our lead teacher team has included lead JOCISM musicians teaching their musical lineages, and this summer we are thrilled to have incredible JOCISM teachers bringing their wisdom to the retreat!
If you identify as JOCISM and would like to apply for financial aid, please fill out this questionnaire.
Note: We *also* love to sing Ashkenazi music, and music created by Ashkenazi and/or white Jews at LMPS. Additionally, we recognize that JOCISM may identify with Ashkenazi ritual, music, and/or culture. This retreat is for everyone, and you’re welcome to come exactly as who you are! If this paradigm is new for you, LMPS will be an amazing opportunity to learn more about racial justice and Jewish diversity through song.
*** Scholarships are also available through the Tamar Fund at Isabella Freedman (see below), and we strongly encourage people with identities often marginalized in Jewish communities, including disabled people, trans, non-binary and gender-non-conforming people, and working class and poor people to apply. LMPS is reshaping Jewish culture, community, and practice, and we really want YOU there! ***
Tamar Fund Scholarship
We strive to make our retreats affordable to everyone.
We believe retreats are important experiences to be shared. Inclusiveness is one of our core values. We strive to ensure that our retreats are as financially accessible as possible. The Tamar fund makes that aspiration possible. The Tamar Fund is in loving memory of Tamar Bittelman z’’l.
Please be sure to read the application guidelines in the form below
Parents, you can relax into the retreat, knowing that your children are playing and learning with exceptional Jewish experiential educators.
We have an engaging, thoughtful, and fun Camp Teva program planned for children ages 5-12.
Gan Adamah is for children ages 2-4. Parents/Guardians can choose to drop off their children or stay with them. Gan Adamah provides a safe and engaging space for toddlers to play, explore, sing, and move. Programming is from 9am – 12pm each morning of the retreat, except arrival and departure days.
When you register kids during your event registration process, they are automatically enrolled in Camp Teva! All-inclusive kids’ rates include Camp Teva programming.