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Practicing “Radical Acceptance” at our “Healing the Jewish Self” Retreat

“This was a real immersion in feeling and being Jewish.  I feel more determined to deepen and expand my practice”
“A very special, intimate, loving experience.  Deeply touching and fun.”
“A life-changing experience.”
“We bonded as a group, and together journeyed through some difficult personal and communal territory”
“I liked the sacred space – the ability to explore and reflect on topics that are usually not available elsewhere.”                  
“I loved the exploration of our relationship with the Tallit and the Torah”
“Profoundly healing.”
“Therapeutic without being a counseling session.”
“The opportunity to be seen…Acceptance by community is a transformative experience.”
“Led by gentle, informed, loving people with deep heart opening opportunity to form community and mishpucha.”
“This was one of the most important workshops I have ever taken.”
“Warm, safe, holy space, and joyful too.”
“My first time wearing a tallis and holding the Torah – so moving, joy and tears at the same time.”
 
As you can see from the above quotes, gathered from the evaluation forms, “Healing the Jewish Self,” was a deep and meaningful weekend for participants.  Who would have thought such a serious theme – oppression and how it is internalized – could be addressed with so much trust and joy?  We welcomed each other as do-it-you-own-way Jews.  Regardless of background, lifestyle, upbringing, tradition, observance, non-observance, belief, non-belief, and everything in between, what Rabbi Jonathan described as “radical acceptance” was most definitely in the room. We were delighted to have Rabbi Miriam Margles adding her own special blend of knowledge, experience, song, wisdom, and warmth. Thanks to the caring, skillful, experienced leadership of the two rabbis everyone felt safe.  A community of trust was born, new friendships were formed.  In the days and weeks following the retreat, participants who met for the first time now greet each other as old friends.
We began on Friday evening with niggun singing, candle lighting, and love songs from “Song of Songs. As we entered Shabbat, our leaders pointed out that stopping to rest is the key to any kind of healing. After Kiddush and a delicious catered dinner, Rabbi Jonathan spoke about “isms” (with emphasis on Anti-Semitism) and the variety of effects that has on how we move through the world as Jews.
In our Saturday morning service, the theme was love.  The rabbis also led a teaching about the tallit and we looked at different samples of tallitot.  We were all invited to wear a tallit. It was a moving experience for those wearing a tallit for the first time, and those accustomed to wearing one found their experience deepened.  We also had the opportunity to hold and carry the Torah.   For many, it was their first time.
As the retreat progressed, the group coalesced in a beautiful spontaneous flow of wholeness, as the leaders attended to our arising emotional and spiritual questions, concerns, needs.  Rabbis Jonathan and Miriam were well attuned to each other and to each of us as we participated in a series of exercises designed to encourage freedom and openness. 

As we expressed our gratitude to one another, a phrase emerged that participants are still using when they see one another:  “Thank you for being Jewish with me.”  
 
At the end of the weekend, the rabbis asked if we would like a “part B” of “Healing the Jewish Self.”  The unanimous response was – you guessed it – a resounding “yes!”  In the spirit of radical acceptance, people who were not able to come to the Nov. weekend are invited.  Stay tuned for when this will be scheduled.
At the concluding ceremony each of us received a polished stone with the word “healing” engraved in Hebrew and English.  We were also invited to say something about what we received during the weekend.  Here are some of our parting thoughts:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
“I never felt this much at home in my Jewish body.”
“I learned how Jewish my heart is, how open I am to my Jewishness.”
“The best experience I’ve had as a Jew ever.”
 “I wasn’t going to come because I am already joyful in Jewishness, but I have so much more to learn, seeing how brave humans can be in opening up their hearts.  A gift to receive and a gift I can give.”