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Topic: Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

Why Do We Wander? | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Eliezer Weinbach – Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Hazon  Parshat Maasei Earlier this year, Isabella Freedman hosted a Moishe House retreat called “Wandering Jews.” Led by New York Times contributor Eli Reiter, twelve people in their twenties and thirties got together to discuss their experiences and wisdom regarding travel as a Jewish person. They discussed things like kashruth and shabbat observance while abroad. The question is: Why bother? When the Torah lists all the stages of the journey through the desert, as per the text from Numbers above, it really does discuss each part. All forty-two stages, in fact! The question is: Why bother? God commands that when the Jews do finally enter the land, they are to travel three times a year to Jerusalem. Wasn’t the journey to the land long enough?! Why bother?! Travel is hard. Sitting at home is easy. Hiking is hard. Watching Netflix is easy. Adventures change you. Inaction keeps you the same. Wandering is change. On a very basic level, you are moving from one place to another. But it’s so much more than that. I could quote Emerson on “roads less traveled” or Kerouac on basically anything, or any of the myriad formulations regarding […]

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To Kvetch or Not to Kvetch? | D’Varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Parshat Behaalotecha Frances Lasday – Hazon: Teva What strikes me most about this week’s parsha, Behaalotecha, is the kvetching. The parsha (Torah portion) spends an entire chapter retelling several instances where the Jewish people complained endlessly. So, what can we learn from this?   As an outdoor educator who works with children, and who supervises other educators, I too encounter whining. What interests me most about this parsha are the descriptions of the different ways in which Moshe and G!d react to their cranky people. I think that there is a lot to learn from how Moshe in particular, as leader, caretaker, and educator of the Jewish people, responds to the incessant whining. Before I go any further, full disclosure: I am totally a whiner. I get cranky, and I express it in ways that I am not always proud of. So I get it. I can’t imagine it was easy to wander aimlessly through the desert for 40 years, and there were probably lots of things to be cranky about. But, in Behaalotecha, the Children of Israel’s complaining takes on a whole new level. “The people took to complaining bitterly before Hashem and the Lord heard and was incensed.” […]

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Wrestling With Darkness | D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jacob Weiss – Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center  Parshat Vayishlach This week’s Torah portion — Vayishlach — is jam packed with complex and significant plot lines that the reader can surely glean valuable lessons from. The parsha opens up with Jacob preparing himself and his family for their eventual encounter with his twin brother Esau, who he has not seen in quite a long while. We then read about Shimon and Levi’s attacking of the city of Shechem, followed by Rachel’s passing away, while giving birth to her youngest son Binyamin. I want to further examine the relationship of Jacob and Esau — and how that presents in this week’s parsha — as well as exploring Jacob’s nighttime meeting with the angel. In the first chapter of Vayishlach, Jacob says to God: “Now deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I am afraid of him, lest he come and strike me, and strike a mother and children.” We see here very clearly just how anxious Jacob is in anticipation of encountering his twin brother. Jacob and Esau are the perfect twin foils for one another. Since the time that Jacob came out of Rebecca’s womb clutching onto Esau’s […]

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Why go on a Jewish meditation retreat?

by Rabbi Jay Michaelson Wednesday, December 6, 2017 | 18 Kislev 5778 In large part, the answers are the same as to why one would go on a meditation retreat in general: greater awareness of how we thrive and how we suffer, recharging the mind and heart so we can live more vividly and more compassionately, deep insights that lead to profound shifts in consciousness. But there are plenty of meditation retreats – why a Jewish one? Here are a few answers. First, there’s what some people call the “morphic field”: the community, the sense of connection, and the set of cultural practices, ways of being, and traditions of being Jewish. We’re not a traditionally religious retreat, but for our students, that’s not the point. Rather, they feel more comfortable with the Jewish ‘morphic field’ than with other forms, and feel a sense of connection, tribe, heart-opening, integration, or other positive emotions. It helps set the tone. Second, while the core meditation practices we teach are not indigenously Jewish – more on that in a bit – there is a lot about the retreat that is very Jewish indeed. For one, if we believe that experiences of the sacred are valuable (as opposed […]

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Calling the Congregation – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jacob Weiss – Hazon at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Parashat Beha’alotcha “Make thee two trumpets of silver; of beaten work shalt thou make them; and they shall be unto thee for the calling of the congregation… And when they shall blow with them, all the congregation shall gather themselves unto thee at the door of the tent of meeting.” Bamidbar perek yud, pasuk bet (Numbers 10:2) I recently recalled to a friend— just after our festival of Shavuot — that I had now been in attendance at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center for all three of the Shalosh Regalim, which are the three main pilgrimage festivals. Shavuot, Passover, and Sukkot all took on very different energies at Isabella Freedman. There remained a constant, though: the spirit, joy, and sheer heart that was poured into those festivals by everyone who attended, and by everyone who worked so tirelessly to make those retreat and community gatherings manifest. An incredible sense of community occurs during Jewish holiday retreats at Isabella Freedman, where I am currently a JOFEE Fellow. After spending the seven weeks of the Omer preparing ourselves, the Jewish people traditionally celebrate the festival of Shavuot to commemorate the receiving of […]

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Significant news from Isabella Freedman…

From Nigel Savage March 23rd, 2017 | 25th Adar 5777 Significant news from Isabella Freedman… Dear All, How do we maintain balance in the 24/7 news cycle? How do we mediate social media and real life – and does the latter need airquotes (“real life” – as if to say, do we know what real life is, anymore, absent social media?) And how do we engage and deepen our relationship to Jewish tradition, if so many of its presumptions – about the nature of community, learning, relationship to language, practice – seem so far apart from so many of the rhythms of contemporary life? That’s the backdrop to Isabella Freedman. What does it mean that it is a “Jewish Retreat Center?” I no longer know when first I went there, but it was some time in the 1990s. I was there when Michal Smart was running it, and then Avital Rech; and maybe I was there when Eric Robbins was running it, though I don’t now remember. As an English Jewish guy, based at that time in Israel, I found it to be a remarkable place. The rhythms of it. The people wandering around. The Jewish relaxedness of it. The […]

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Listen and Gather: Jewish Rain Makers – D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog

Jessica Berlin, Hazon: Transformative Experiences, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center – Falls Village, CT Sukkot and Parashat Ha’azinu Editor’s Note: Welcome to D’varim HaMakom: The JOFEE Fellows Blog! Most weeks throughout the year, you’ll be hearing from the JOFEE Fellows: reflections on their experiences, successful programs they’ve planned and implemented, gleanings from the field, and connections to the weekly Torah portion and what they’ve learned from their experiences with place in their host communities for the year. Views expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily represent Hazon. Be sure to check back weekly!  P.S. Interested in being or hosting a JOFEE Fellow? Applications for cohort two are now open for both prospective fellows and prospective host institutions!  On a hot summer day in late August, I led a group of young adults on a tour of the Adamah farm on BeeBee Hill at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. The inscription above the gateway, “And God saw that it was good,” reminds us of a classic JOFEE interpretation of the Genesis creation story: that the interdependent relationships found in nature are fundamentally good; and that by emulating these relationships, humans can learn to create more sustainable relationships with one another and the land. We […]

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The power of retreat

by Nigel Savage Shana tova – happy new year. I was in shul and I was wondering: if a social psychologist could somehow track the behavior of all the Jewish people in the world, relative to a/ our own behavior the rest of the year and b/ everyone else’s behavior this week, would there be some statistically significant measure of our somehow being better? Kinder, more thoughtful, more generous? I hope that would be the case. I do actually believe that that is the case. If the steady drip, drip of a religious tradition doesn’t make us better people then it’s not in either sense of the word a good religion – not morally good, not practically useful. Before Rosh Hashanah, I sent out the recent Andrew Sullivan essay on the need to step back from technology. If you haven’t read it, it’s really worth reading. If not before, print it out for the afternoon of Yom Kippur. But I also wanted to share the journal published ten years ago by Michael Steinhardt’s foundation on “The Power & Potential of Jewish Retreats.” The essays make interesting reading after a decade’s reflection. The power of retreats has, if anything, increased, as […]

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Feeling The Gratitude Of Our Bounty And The Pride In Our Colleagues

by Mordechai Schram, Director of Food Services It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated Shavuot/Yom Habikurim with a celebration of First Fruits – reveling in the tingling fresh taste of our delicious Shavuot Schav Shooters – Schav, is a delicious Sorrell and Potato Soup served hot or cold and made with Sorrell from Adamah Farms. Now that we are in early August, our fruits and veggies are in full abundance, and they have begun making their way to our kitchen in their full glory. So many colors, flavors and textures from the Collards, Kale, Cucumbers, Salad Turnips, Salad Greens, Romaine, Oregano and Basil. Today we held our second annual Farm & Table Team Farm Tour (say that 5 times fast). We toured the farm together and learned how the farmers grow such bounty without the use of chemicals- through the use of crop rotation, the creation of habitat for beneficial insects that help control pests, the mile high compost piles of food waste decomposing into rich fertilizer, drip irrigation technology (developed is Israel) and more. A fine and fun day was had by all. Now is a glorious time to be here at the farm, so we look forward to […]

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Isabella Freedman Beautiful

Organic Jewish life, now

by Nigel Savage It’s spring, we’re counting the omer, much is happening. I wanted to say something about the nature of Isabella Freedman as a Jewishly-inflected retreat center – why that is so unique and vital and also hard to define, and then a few words about some of what’s happening at Freedman in the next few months. The significance and necessity of a place like Freedman goes back to the flattening of Jewish life that traces back to the French Revolution, the enlightenment and the emancipation. Each, in various ways, good in and of itself – or a harbinger of good things which we take for granted – yet a toll was paid; not just the general toll of modernity, but also a toll within the Jewish community. Until then – and absolutely without over-romanticizing it – Jewish life was lived organically, ie with some degree of separation from the surrounding culture, in a world that encompassed Jewish space, Jewish time, Jewish language and Jewish thought. These things cannot and should not be solely in their own bubble; but neither should they be flattened by the surrounding culture. But that’s what has happened, to some extent, after the French […]

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