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Topic: Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

Isabella Freedman Beautiful

Organic Jewish life, now

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 Revolution. Jewish life […]

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Journey to freedom at Isabella Freedman

by Mordechai Schram, Director of Food Services Dear friends, in my last blog post I wrote about the delicious sourdough breads that we have been making here in the kitchens of Isabella Freedman… And now for something completely different. Pesach is almost upon us, and we are now beginning our journey in earnest from from slavery to freedom. We begin this journey by freeing ourselves from the hametz in our lives both physically and spiritually. Hametz refers to anything that is leavened, and hazal, our sages of blessed memory, make the spiritual connection to hametz to refer to puffery and arrogance in ourselves. As we clean every nook and cranny in our stoves, ovens, refrigerators and cabinets, we also search deeply in our own neshamot (souls) to identify the spiritual hametz in ourselves toward becoming our best selves as we begin this incredible journey from slavery to freedom to matan torah (receiving Torah). But make no mistake about it, the work is very physical. Here at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center kitchen, we are scrubbing and torching and scraping everything and getting ready for what will be an amazing Pesach here at the farm, b’h. Our staff – chefs, porters, dining hall and mashgichim –  […]

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Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti – (Sour)Do!

by Mordechai Schram, Director of Adamah Food Services After weeks of nourishing and nurturing our sourdough starter, and after a few test runs, I am so happy and proud to announce that we are now making amazing sourdough breads at Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. We served our first bread during The New Paradigm Spiritual Communities Retreat in February. It was a Sourdough Rye paired with Grow & Behold Pasture Raised Pulled BBQ Brisket. We served it again this past week at our Hazon staff gathering paired with Moroccan G&B Lamb Neck & Shoulder Tagine (embracing Dan Barber’s third plate concept for conscious meat eating). Kudos to our baker Rachel Crane whose skill and passion for sourdough are simply inspirational. “I’m officially obsessed,” said Chef Crane when asked about how she has been enjoying the experience of baking these delicious breads. So much so that even in her free time at home she has become a voracious sourdough baker. Many a morning she comes in the kitchen beaming with pictures of new and wonderful breads that she baked such as Amaranth Sourdough, Olive & Herbs de Provence, Rye, Country White, Black & White Sesame Flax Sourdough and Green Sourdough w/Za’atar. One of the really fun things about having a starter […]

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Adamah Farm and Table: Journey to Red Barn Produce

by Mordechai Schram, Director of Adamah Food Services Yesterday, the Adamah Farm and Table team took to the road to visit Kevin Terr, owner of our produce supplier Red Barn Produce in Highland, NY. It was an amazing trip where we learned about all the ways that Red Barn supports local farms and sustainable farming practices. Red Barn, a family owned business in operation for over 20 years, had identified the need for a local and specialty fruit and vegetable distributor here in the Hudson Valley. They work with more than 30 local farms to bring the best of what the bountiful Hudson Valley has to offer in seasonal and sustainable fruits and vegetables. In addition to fresh produce, they also distribute local farm-fresh dairy items, grains, and artisanal foods. They support equal exchange practices for produce grown outside of the US, utilize controlled atmosphere technology for apple preservation, and contract with local farms to do freezing and canning thereby extending our access to local fruits and veggies throughout the winter. They are true and valued partners with us here at Hazon/Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center helping us to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community and a healthier […]

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Sanctuaries, at a complicated moment

This week’s parsha includes the famous line: “Let them make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell amongst them.” You can parse it, learn it, sing it, reflect on it. We hear words in different ways, in different moments of our life, at different places in the world. For me, this week, I was thinking about the presidential elections, and refugees from Syria, and water in Flint, and stabbings in Israel. And too many things on my to do list, and too little time. These were all in my mind when I arrived at Isabella Freedman yesterday. Davenning Leadership Training Institute is underway – the fourth of four retreats, helping people to lead davening in ways grounded and beautiful. And Diane Bloomfield is here, to lead the Torah Yoga retreat, running at the same time. And – also concurrently – fresh snow on the ground, the lake finally freezing, the remarkable silence waking up here, early on a snowy morning. Cliches come freshly true when one steps away, outside, in the natural world. I live in a unique urban village (the Upper West Side of Manhattan), which I love. But the obverse of what is great about urban villages […]

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A Star(ter) is Born!

By Mordechai Schram, Director of Adamah Food Services Last night in the Isabella Freedman kitchen we began the first of a series of master chef classes for our kitchen. This first one was about learning how to make sourdough bread and we were fortunate enough learn from our very own Arielle Aronoff. In addition to being a Teva educator and “winternik” she is also an accomplished baker with a passion for sourdough. Sourdough bread made with a starter of wild yeast and bacteria, and combined with grain flour is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread. It truly is an ancient art that is crafted in harmony with nature. The sourdough process breaks down the wheat to help your digestive system; enhances the vitamin content inherent in the food; produces probiotics and enzymes; and keeps your blood sugar levels more even. And it’s delicious!!! This is something that is so aligned with our food values and aesthetic at Hazon/Isabella Freedman, and is a natural extension of what we do in the CC with our vegetable ferments. We are developing 3 different types of starter which takes about 2 weeks to fully develop. One that is only stirred, one […]

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Right Now, It’s Like That

This essay is an excerpt from Rabbi Jay Michaelson’s new book, The Gate of Tears: Sadness and the Spiritual Path. Rabbi Michaelson is one of the teachers at the Elat Chayyim Meditation Retreat. Often, when sadness, loss, loneliness, or other modes of heart- break arise, there’s a tendency to try and find reasons – to why. Suppose one were to look in a different direction—to what. That is, what is the present-moment experience of these “unwanted houseguests,” these difficult emotions that come, go, and sometimes come but do not go? What might it be like to inhabit the experience itself, rather than the story accompanying it? Perhaps a constriction in the throat, or a heaviness in the chest. Possibly, in the mind, a certain flavor of consciousness, not unlike a flavor of food with more spice or salt than one might like. It is unusual to do this. It is human nature to account for sadness by explaining it: I am sad because I have not succeeded in my career, I am lonesome because I am alone, I am crying because my mother has died. Such accounts can be helpful, but it is also helpful to stay, simply, with the […]

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Kohenet Institute Ordains Nine Hebrew Priestesses

Graduating Class of 2015 Serve As Jewish Ritual Leaders and Educators On Friday, July 24, 2015, the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute gave smicha, ordination, to nine women at a ceremony at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut. The nine new Kohanot, Hebrew Priestesses, constitute the fourth graduating class since Kohenet started 10 years ago. Under the guidance of Kohenet co-founders Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD and Taya Shere, they have been trained as ritual leaders in an earth-based, embodied, feminist Jewish paradigm that honors the history of women’s spiritual practices and the sacred feminine. They are from three countries: the US, England and Ireland. The Kohenet certification empowers and enables new graduates to continue building on the work they are doing, in positions such as a congregational rabbi in Colorado, a youth educator at Eden Village Camp in New York, and a founding resident of Moishe House in London, England. The graduating class has published articles, books, and poetry, created Judaica artwork, and facilitated workshops on midwifery, gender inclusivity, earth-based ritual, storytelling, and strategic planning. They are activists for human rights, for dialogue and understanding, and for ecological sustainability. Kohenet graduates will lead communities in prayer, conduct […]

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Omer Week Three: Embodied Tiferet

Wisdom from Rachel Dewan, Certified Anusara Teacher, E-RYT500 Videography by Deana Morenoff and Michael Arginsky   Rachel Dewan, Certified Anusara Teacher, E-RYT500 , is a graduate of the Yoga and Jewish Spirituality Teacher Training.  and in addition to a full schedule of yoga classes, has been teaching Yoga Teacher Trainings, Prenatal Yoga Teacher Trainings, Yoga Therapeutics, and a wide variety of workshops since 2004. She has studied many different yoga styles and regularly immerses herself in a range of both Jewish and yogic texts and practices.  It is Rachel’s ultimate goal as a teacher to cultivate a sense of community in her classes, bring a sense of fullness and joy to her students by inspiring them to expand to their highest possible potential both on and off the mat, and helping them to strengthen their connection to their own unique and divine nature.   Her classes infuse dynamic asana and skillful pranayama (breathwork) and meditation,  interwoven with deep teachings of the heart and spirit, designed to awaken the deepest longing of the soul to connect with it’s Source. Read Rachel’s thoughts on yoga and life. The 7-week period between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot is called the Omer. For each of these 7 weeks, we will […]

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Because Sometimes it Rains on Your Sukkah

by Sarah Chandler Geshem Be’ito (Acceptance of Rain in Its Time) The following essay will be published in the forthcoming book of teachings “Good Noticing” published by the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. The rhythms of the Jewish calendar may not coincide with your particular climate. At times, our traditional rituals may range from the impractical to the impossible. For example, in the Northern Hemisphere, calling upon light in the darkness of Chanukah in Kislev/December always resonates, but singing about blossoming trees in Shevat/January may not make sense. How can we stay true to our tradition when the weather doesn’t cooperate? And as mindfulness practitioners, how might we elevate the news of undesirable weather? Those of us who live in the Northeastern United States are usually blessed with bountiful precipitation year-round. Furthermore, our religion is no longer based on the careful balance between following God’s laws and receiving in return enough rain for our crops to survive. The Reform movement even removed the second paragraph of the Shema from prayer books to make the bold statement: we are modern Jews—we do not believe that we can influence God to change the weather by keeping the commandments of our tradition. Recent evidence […]

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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 […]

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What does “access” mean to you?

Dear Friends, One of the most powerful transformative experiences is helping others. Last year, with the help of our supporters, Hazon proudly gave over $200,000 in scholarships and subsidies for people to attend our programs – whether twenty-somethings participating in the Adamah farming fellowship; families participating in Jewish holiday retreats; or senior adults seeking two weeks of respite at Camp Isabella Freedman. With increased interest in our programs and a still struggling economy, we are getting more and more requests for help, and your support is needed now more than ever. As a response to the growing need, we are launching our Access Fund. We are calling this an access fund and not a scholarship fund because we deeply believe that people should have access to our programs, whatever their financial situation. And we’ve lived this value over many years with the support of generous donors like you who understand that part of creating a healthier and more sustainable world is ensuring that the resources we have to offer should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances. Listen to the words of some of our participants: Right now in the Jewish calendar, we’re counting the Omer – literally […]

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Jewish Week – “Retreat and Advance”

Retreat And Advance Debra Nussbaum Cohen – Staff Writer May 5, 2006 Next Labor Day weekend, Rabbis Jeff Roth and Joanna Katz will carefully remove the Torah scroll from its home at Elat Chayyim, the Jewish retreat center they founded 16 years ago, and carry it on the first leg of the journey to its new home. Then they’ll hand it off to pairs of friends who will take turns walking the holy scroll 62 miles, to the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Removing the Torah will be the final act by Elat Chayyim’s leaders before they close the retreat center’s doors, bringing to an end a grand experiment in the spiritual renewal of Judaism. People with every kind of Jewish background went to Elat Chayyim to learn and practice meditation, experiment with neo-chasidic practices like chanting and ecstatic movement, and bring an environmentally sensitive consciousness to every act. The problem was that its ramshackle site was too uncomfortably funky for all but the most committed, and its creators and leaders were focused more on teaching than on finances. (more…)

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