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Topic: Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

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One Water, All Lives: Teva Over Greenland

By Mike Tintner 2018 Teva Educator On the plane flying from Moscow to New York City, returning from Israel, I had the chance to bless. After standing up for the first time in hours on the long flight I stumbled to the window, where I saw a spectacular sight. For as far as my eyes could see was white. Below me were the glaciers of Greenland I have seen so many times on the news and in documentaries. I met someone wearing a black kippah journeying from Israel to New York for his sister’s wedding. We talked about the blessing of beauty, Maaseh Breshit, and proceeded to say the full Hebrew blessing. I told the Orthodox appearing man about my work teaching the connection between Judaism and nature to kids at Teva. As I said these words I wondered what he must think. First: There is such a program? Second: What qualifies you to teach this? The truth is I was the one judging myself. I usually am proud of my work and sometimes I struggle to explain it. In my 107 seasons on Earth, I have witnessed a lot. I have been part of the movement of water protectors […]

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Big News: Extending the Adamah Farm & Increasing Capacity at Isabella Freedman

By Nigel Savage Thursday, December 13, 2018 | 5 Tevet 5779 Dear All, With strong active staff and lay involvement, and support from Project Accelerate, Hazon’s board earlier this year signed off on a new master plan for Isabella Freedman. Isabella Freedman is a place that touches people’s lives individually and strengthens and thickens Jewish institutions. Through Adamah, Teva, the Hazon Food Conference, and our other national retreats it has had a profound impact across the American Jewish community. As Jessica Haller, one of our senior board members, says, “there are some places that do some of the things that this place does, but there are no other places that do all of the things that this place does.” So the master plan is critical not only to Isabella Freedman and Hazon but also, in fact, to the future of the American Jewish community. Isabella Freedman is a place where magic happens – but we need to increase capacity; we need to improve the quality and range of our accommodation and meeting space; and we also need more land to be able to grow our flagship Adamah program, and to enable us to use the land itself more lightly and more carefully. Happily, we believe that […]

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Turning Yom Kippur into Action

Dear friends — If you’re like me, you probably spent some of your Yom Kippur last week thinking about how to better live up to your ideals — how to be kinder, more just, more in touch with the sacred. Well, here’s an advertisement for how to put that resolution into practice. Having spent twenty-five years exploring spirituality, therapy, meditation, medication, self-help, human potential, sacred sexuality, entheogens, and a dozen or so paths to the holy, I think that meditation retreat has been the single most effective tool in the never-finished project of becoming more alive, more awake, and more invested in pursuing justice. I’m sure this isn’t true for everyone, but it has definitely been true for me and for many of the “spiritual friends” and teachers who have inspired me along the way. In my experience, no awesome spiritual state, no study, and no political action can transform the mind and heart the way that meditation does — and no amount of daily meditation can do the work of a multi-day meditation retreat. That’s true whether you’re suffering and looking for healing, or comfortable and interested in doing more with your one, precious life. Contemplative neuroscience has now […]

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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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