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A Summer to Write Home About

In one of my favorite lines from the classic 1979 summer camp film “Meatballs,” head counselor Tripper, played by Bill Murray, tells new camper, Rudy Gerner, “You make one good friend a summer, and you’re doing pretty well.”

Indeed, new friends can be one important way to measure a summer. And, as we’re all asked “How was your summer?” we may choose to answer it by where we traveled, how much we relaxed, the amount of time we spent with our family, how successful we were in keeping the gnats out of our mouths, and so on.

At Hazon, where a core part of our mission revolves around providing transformative Jewish experiences, we look and measure our summer by the impact that we’ve had, the lives that we’ve changed, and – yes – the new friends we’ve made along the way. And, in that regard, what a beautiful summer it was, perhaps best embodied by transformative experiences ranging from Adamah Farm Vacations to Jewish spiritual leadership training institutes to our longest running program, Camp Isabella Freedman for Senior Adults, all occurring at our beautiful Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Connecticut.

And just as my parents would save a summer’s worth of postcards that I’d sent home from overnight camp, I’m delighted to share with you the messages written by some of our many guests after their experiences at our glorious and postcard perfect retreat center – whether learning with Rabbi Arthur Waskow at one of our Living Laboratory sessions or Rabbi Arthur Kurzweil at our new Talmud Circle Institute, joining with other environmental educators for our annual Teva seminar, honing cheese making skills with the family at one of our Adamah Farm Vacations, being one of our many teacher/participants at our innovative annual Mikvah gathering, or pedaling through the beautiful Berkshires as part of our Hazon NY Ride.

Harold Levine came to Isabella Freedman for this first time this summer for our Davvenen’ Leadership Training Institute (DLTI) and left saying “Leave your smartphone, tablet and laptop at home and enjoy a blissful time in rural Connecticut. Enjoy your surroundings, enjoy simple, healthy kosher food, worship in a beautiful small synagogue, swim in the lake and slow down enough to hear your own thoughts again.”

Sabrina Sojourner, a return participant who came this summer for our Living Laboratory shared: “Isabella Freedman is my second home. The gorgeous and sacred grounds, wonderful staff, and the scrumptious food are only topped by the amazing teachers, new and familiar learning companions, and soulful worship opportunities.”

Ken Ross, who participated in our August Elat Chayyim Mikvah retreat wrote: “I came with curiosity and a deep desire for rest and peace in nature. I left with that and so much more! Wonderful community and sharing, home grown food made with love and a feeling of rejuvenation and aliveness that stays with me.”

Betsy Moss joined us for the June Teva Seminar and expressed “To marry my passion for the outdoors and gardening with studies in Judaism gives meaning and intention to both. Teva Seminar is awesome and mind-blowing for meeting kindred spirits and learning and living Jewish environmentalism.”

Marni Rothman, a returning student in our Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Training Institute shared “Being at IF reminds me that there are a lot of enthusiastic Jews out there, living their Judaism in all sorts of creative and holy ways that are neither seen nor portrayed by the media. It’s not seen by the larger world. That’s ok. It just helps ME to be able to go to a place where I can experience this reality of modern Jewish life.”

And Betty J, a Camp Isabella Freedman for Senior Adults camper wrote “I am grateful to be a survivor because I have such freedom here and only someone who knows what it is like to not have freedom can truly appreciate the freedom this place allows me to be me.”

Indeed, if making one good friend a summer means you’re doing pretty well, it was a glorious summer for Hazon, making friends, providing transformative experiences, and inspiring individuals, families, and organizations to help build a healthier and more sustainable world.

And, with a fall that includes the release of our new Shabbat Ha’aretz book, our leading role in the People’s Climate March, our largest ever Israel Bike Ride, our first ever San Diego Food Festival, and the Jewish Intentional Communities Conference at Isabella Freedman, we look forward to the inspiring postcard messages still to come.

Wish you were here!