Topic: Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center

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

by Jacob Weiss, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Hazon Parashat 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 […]

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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

by Jacob Weiss, Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, Hazon 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 the […]

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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

by 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. […]

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The power of retreat

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 day-to-day life becomes […]

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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

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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IF kitchen sourdough

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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