More than twice-a-year community

Mattea strategically signed up to write about the NHC Chesapeake Retreat, but I also want to add two thoughts of my own about the weekend: It was an incredibly awe-inspiring experience to bring a baby to that space and see the love exuded by the community towards Aliza, and I finally got to teach a class I’ve been thinking about for a long time on how invested the “millennial generation” feels towards Jewish institutions.  Good times for all!

This weekend was the National Havurah Committee Chesapeake Retreat! Last year, Miriam wrote about community, rainbow cake, and eco-kashrut. This year, the theme was “Shall the Rich Pay More?” Many of the workshops focused on economic inequality, and the ones I attended offered a lot of food for thought.

This was my second Chesapeake Retreat and my third NHC event (I was an Everett Fellow at last year’s summer Institute). Some of my favorite things about NHC are the spirited Shabbat services, the friendly and welcoming community, and the sense of intellectual curiosity. I love the philosophy that everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn.

On Saturday afternoon, I learned more about Jewish approaches to remedying economic disparities. In the seventh (shmittah) year, all debts are forgiven. In the fiftieth (jubilee) year, all land is returned to its original owners. Additionally, it says in Deuteronomy that we have an obligation to help people in need. The second workshop I attended Saturday (“From Shylock to Payday Lenders: What’s a Fair Price for a Small Loan?”) covered ethics of moneylending. Lenders are not allowed to exploit borrowers, especially ones who are desperate.

Following the workshops and dinner, musical ma’ariv (evening service) and havdalah happened. Large group havdalah always reminds me of summer camp in the best way. Immediately after, there was a community jam session (featuring piano, saxophone, and Rise Up Singing), and more. At last year’s bonfire, I didn’t get to make s’mores, since there weren’t vegetarian marshmallows. This year, the organizers provided veggie-friendly marshmallows (which I melted successfully by accidentally catching them on fire), and I made two s’mores.

One highlight of the retreat was the after-party, an opportunity for late night singing (with acoustic guitars and drums, of course), dancing, noshing, and catching up. The songs were a mix of folk songs, music from the late ’90s, “classics” from previous Chesapeake Retreats, and more.

After a short night’s sleep and lingering over breakfast, I hurried to what I thought was one of the most practical of the workshops, “Move Your Money Minyanim Project”. Building on previous conversations around how to tackle economic inequality, we talked about preventive and restorative measures for economic injustice and what this means in contemporary times. We explored reasons why people feel emotionally connected to supporting small-scale means of contributing to economic justice (like shopping at a farmers’ market or buying fair-trade coffee), and looked at differences between banks and credit unions.

I had a really amazing time at all of the NHC events I’ve attended, but this Chesapeake Retreat felt different from last year for a few reasons.

  1. My Philly community came with me! Not my whole community, of course, but a lot of my close friends from Tikvah (and some of my friends who I consider part of the extended Tikvah community even though they don’t live in Philadelphia).
  2. Last year, I mostly just spent time with people who were already my friends (see above). This year, since I’d been to Institute and traveled a bunch of times since Chesapeake, I managed to spend time with old and new NHC friends while still meeting new people.
  3. Over the course of the week before Chesapeake, I had some really interesting conversations about communities. While on a break from watching curling matches on Sunday, Josh, Benjamin, and I talked about what makes NHC different from other volunteer-led organizations. NHC has a very “grassroots” feel to me, in that it’s informal in a good way and that the expectation is that everyone contributes to building community together. Similarly, when I was hanging out with Naomi, we talked about Tikvah and how it’s great to come together to form a Shabbat community even though that might not mean the same thing to all of us.

Except for the s’mores, the food wasn’t particularly remarkable, so I don’t have a recipe from the weekend. But over the past few months, I’ve been totally hooked on pizza and flatbread, and if you want to be too, I highly recommend you try making pizza margherita.

And on that note, I’m going to leave you with a picture of everyone enjoying kosher Chinese food!

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1 Comment

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One response to “More than twice-a-year community

  1. Warren

    Very jealous. I hope I can go next year.

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