Due to the financial forecast that led to Nehirim’s end as an organization, even teachers could only attend a half day without paying – normally we’d have the option of doing more pro bono work at the retreat, but due to the low registration for NE – about half of the hope -- that wasn’t possible. My workshop being this afternoon, I planned on arriving after lunch and staying through dinner and perhaps for the duration.
As it turned out, I was lucky to make it to the retreat, or out of the house, at all, as I had a sciatica attack this morning and almost had to cancel altogether. (And I didn’t even have it for ‘sexy’ reasons, in any sense – while looking at my face in the bathroom mirror, I leant in a little further (as I do every morning), and my back went berserk.) But thankfully my pain and mobility improved enough for Julia to schlep me the hour from our home to Pearlstone in time for my workshop with fifteen minutes to spare. I remained in some pain and somewhat stiff, but with ibuprofen and my mother-in-sin’s walker and special back cushion (she is disabled by arthritis and issues), it was okay. And more importantly, it was worthwhile.
My workshop was “Conceal? Reveal? Honor? Claim? Navigating Interfaith Experiences & Identities”, which I described thus: Our retreat theme, ‘Concealed and Revealed: Honoring our Depths and Claiming our Wholeness’, seems made to include conversation about our interfaith experiences. What does it mean to be a Jewish and/or interfaith person / couple / family, community member / worker / leader? How do these faith / religion / spirituality experiences and identities relate to our LGBTQIA+ ones? How do they affect our process around disclosure, often known as “out”ness? What do we do with questions about whether we’re too interfaithful to be Jewish? How is the faith community responding to these “new” challenges? Your teacher will share some thoughts from hir personal and professional Jewscopalian / Trewscopalian journey and facilitate a group discussion.”
In addition to Julia I only had two attendees, but they were quite the bashert attendees, and we had a great conversation. And in quite the setting – we sat in the end of a large room in a windowed area that was like a small solarium, and looked out over one of the natural landscapes (Pearlstone includes a farm and much more) – especially interesting when the edge of a thunderstorm storm passed through.
Then on to dinner with everyone, where I got to catch up with retreat co-chair and fellow recent transplant to the DMV Rabbi Julia Watts Belser, and meet a trans person who lives very near to us (my Julia and I). Then it was time for Mishpacha groups, and so Julia and I retired to one of the common areas, and ended up having a chat with fellow faculty member Bet Mish’s Rabbi Laurie Green.
We were tempted to stay for the service, and even for the havdallah, dancing and open mic, but Julia had to get up early for her volunteer work at Washington Ear, and I wanted to help my back recover as well as possible.
The other retreat co-chair was Nehirim’s Executive Director Rabbi Debra Kolodny; the other faculty were Sabrina Sojourner, Eryca Kasse, Dr. Dana Beyer, Rabbi Joel Alter, Rabbi John Franken and Michael Alterman. This NE was sponsored by the World Congress of GLBT Jews (Keshet Ga'avah, Rainbow Pride), Bet Mishpachah, GLOE (the DC JCC's Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach & Engagement), and Bolton Street Synagogue.