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At Central Synagogue

Reflection on Women’s Fall Retreat

Posted October 24, 2019

Written by Jane Ginns

For a congregation of more than 2,500 families, Central can be a surprisingly warm and intimate place. I was reminded of that again this past weekend when I attended the Fall Women’s Retreat led by Rabbis Angela Buchdahl, Nicole Auerbach, and Lori Koffman. It is no secret that these three women are great spiritual and organizational leaders that our synagogue is lucky to have, but they are more than that – they are our sisters, and that spirit of sisterhood united the attendees across all generations as we sang, talked, ate, and reflected.

A retreat can be many different things to many different people – a sanctuary, a moment of calm, a social opportunity to make connections with new friends, a chance to study. For me, this experience managed to be all of these. The truly joyful Mishkan-style service provided the sanctuary I hadn’t realized I needed to reconnect with what I truly love about Shabbat services – the sense of community, the beauty of the music, and the permission to put aside other concerns and focus on what Jewish tradition means to me. I found the calm in the quiet conversation and meditation practice. I made a lot of new friends, as always impressed by the diversity and breadth of experiences we all bring to the table. The most pleasant surprise, however, was the guest speaker, Sarah Hurwitz. I had heard of her as Michelle Obama’s speech writer, but had no idea she had released a book about Judaism – and one that seemed to be written directly for Jews like myself, who vaguely know that Judaism contains timeless wisdom that should be a resource and an asset to us in these turbulent times, but find it inaccessible due to conflicting ideas about G-d, our own Jewish upbringing, and a basic lack of knowledge. Armed with a copy of this book, I went home feeling uplifted at the possibility of greater learning and finding deeper meaning. (Feel free to ask me how that turns out!)

This was Central’s second Women’s Retreat, and I hope it continues as an annual event. I encourage fellow female members to join next year – it’s a opportunity to connect, slow down, and reflect in a truly meaningful way.