Six years ago, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z"l, spoke to the JMR20 group by video conference from Boulder on the Sunday morning of the retreat. When Zalman was asked about how we could best cope with the many revolutionary changes that were transpiring around the world (particularly in the Arab world), he encouraged us to welcome the disintegration of old ways that were not serving society anymore, and the emergence of new ways that could better serve society. Zalman laid out a vision of making the city/community better in many ways, and maintained that it is sometimes necessary to tear up some roads and buildings in order to create a new, improved, healthier, evolved city/community. He encouraged us to not be demoralized by torn-up roads and buildings under demolition, but to focus on our visions of better cities/communities.
Reb Zalman’s wisdom in many ways captures the essence of the Jewish Men’s Retreat, which strives to support men in their efforts to cultivate better and better versions of themselves and their communities.
This mindset was palpable at this year’s JMR campfire, where perhaps men were more vulnerable and openhearted after just experiencing the powerful physical/spiritual Ohel Avot, a sacred, transformational ceremony beautifully facilitated by David Piver. The campfire stories and sharing were particularly kind, capturing the notion that, as our liturgy says, “the soul You have given us is pure.” My heart was touched and I felt aspects of that truth in almost all the campfire sharings. For example, Jeff Levine showed how simple kindness in his professional legal work had powerful impacts on the lives of his clients. Allen Spivack, whose years of leadership has been instrumental in shaping the JMR experience, continues to show the righteous path with his work in his community Chevra Kadisha, preparing the body for burial. Such mensches! These are just two of the dozens of men who spoke from their hearts at the campfire.
Continuing JMR’s strong attendance the past several years, more than 80 men registered for JMR26. From the post-JMR survey results, we can say that the weekend was transformative for the men in so many different ways. Thanks are due to the great efforts of the many creative men on the planning team. Throughout JMR26, I was in awe of so many wonderful contributions from first-time attendees as well as from men who have shared their truths in the group for decades.
I am happy to report that JMR 27, now scheduled for October 19-21, 2018, at Isabella Freedman, is in strong hands. The retreat’s co-leaders, Marc Jacobs and Cobi Waxman, and 16 other JMR alums gathered on January 14 in Philadelphia at the first planning meeting. There is still time to support your brothers by joining the planning team; just contact Marc (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Cobi (email@example.com), and they will help you get involved. Please mark your calendars to attend JMR 27.
As you know, many of us view Menschwork as the logical next step in the evolution of the Jewish Men’s Retreat.
With JMR’s continued growth and desire to provide more opportunities to Jewish men, the Wisdom Council, with the legal help of Steve Masters, established Menschwork in 2016 as a 501(c)(3) organization. This development allows us to develop and share our Mission and Values (listed on our website Menschwork.org) to even more Jewish men. On the websiteyou can also find information about regional meetings, a great introductory video to Jewish men’s work by Reb Shawn Zevit, the first of a growing library of Webinars, archives of JMR events, a Blog, a way to contact us, how to support Menschwork, and more.
While we say “Amazing Things Happen When Jewish Men Gather,” it is most often applied when describing the Jewish Men’s Retreat from the planning, during the event, and the transformations after the retreats. We need the input from all men receiving this letter to help define what being part of Menschwork community means to you. Please send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we are not a membership organization, we do offer at no cost a Menschwork card, which looks and feels like a credit card. Containing the full text of our Mission, the card has been helpful as a way of introducing other men to Menschwork. Let us know if we can send you some cards for yourself and others with whom you might want to share it. Designed by Ori Alon and bringing a smile almost every time it is used, this “credit card” states, in large print, “Valid for good deeds only.”
Strength, Peace and Blessings,
Chair, Menschwork Wisdom Council