By Sharon Bleviss, President
Forty-five folks (and three dogs) huddled together for warmth, friendship and learning in Sonoma for the 33rd Annual Retreat at the Sonoma Valley Inn. Although the weather was cold and rainy, participants broke bread together for 6 tasty meals, three learning sessions with scholar-in-residence Rabbi Mark Goodman, Shabbat services, Havdalah, and more. Rabbi Goodman teaches Talmud at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, and attended with his wife Noa and their infant son.
Friday night’s service and learning session was followed by the first annual Rabbi’s Tish, with singing and sharing, drinking and eating (as if we needed to eat more!). Shabbat services on Saturday morning were spiritual and participatory with teens leading Torah service and Rabbi Mark giving an intriguing drash regarding our personal struggles with Judaism.
The children enjoyed a special session with Rabbi Mark, as did the teens. People spent their free time in various ways, strolling to the town square or even swimming in the freezing rain! Havdalah was a high point as the children, who were being cared for by babysitters Anna and Solitaire, joined the adults bearing their spices containers: etrogim with cloves inserted into the rind and muslin/tuille filled with cinnamon sticks and cloves. The lights were turned down as the candle was lit and everyone joined together to mark the end of Shabbat. After dinner, participants divided into five teams for a rousing game of Tribe Trivia (thanks to Ken Mitchell for designing it). The questions were hard but the teams worked well together and fun and prizes were had by all. Those who still had energy enjoyed a new addition this year: card games and board games!
The three learning sessions led by Rabbi Goodman included “Free your mind and the rest will follow,” “The NFL, Scabs and Jewish Labor Law,” and “A Magical Mystery Tour of the Parshah: Hassidic Interpretations.” The sessions prompted much discussion which continued beyond the designated classes. As always, the retreat closed with a friendship circle and people bid their goodbyes.
A special thank you to Flori, Art, Ken, Rabbi Mark and Sharon for their work putting the retreat together!