Getting ready for Shabbat dinner.
On July 28-30, 16 young Jewish adults came together for the Koach: Finding Your Strength retreat. Participants came from around the Pacific Northwest including Seattle, Oregon, and Idaho to disconnect from their daily lives and reconnect with nature, Shabbat, and themselves. The theme of the retreat was koach (power), and together we discussed personal and communal power, the power of water in Judaism, the ecological history of the Sauk and Skagit rivers, and culminated the trip by white water rafting on the Sauk.
The trip was organized by SJCC Jewish Life and Learning Professional Danniell Nadiv and Community Connections Professional Ken Di Raimondo. Ken’s main objectives for the retreat were to expose participants to an outdoor recreation opportunity that would give them a greater sense of connection to water, and the intrinsic worth of the Sauk and Skagit rivers and the Snoqualmie Mount Baker National Forest. One of the highlights of the retreat was his presentation on the ecological history of the area and legislation that protects it.
Participants gathered from around the Pacific Northwest.
One of the most meaningful aspects of the retreat for Danniell was candle lighting on Friday evening. Each participant took a quiet moment to set intentions for the weekend and for what they wanted in the week to come. In the middle of sharing their hopes for the weekend someone looked up and noticed a black bear cub running throughout the backyard. IT WAS AMAZING! It also helped set the tone for the weekend – we never knew exactly what to expect and were constantly amazed by the gorgeous natural setting we were in.
Other memorable aspects of the retreat included learning sessions with Aliyah Vinikoor, Assistant Director of MSW Program at the University of Washington School of Social Work, about Rabbi Alan Lew’s book: “This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared,” which discusses Tisha B’Av, the Days of Awe, and personal strength. A wonderful facilitated conversation was held about personal responsibility and ways to create space for everyone within the community.
The arc of the experience however, was the day long rafting trip on the Sauk River. Once we began the rafting session and realized how technical the class III rapids were and what was required of us as teammates, everyone became a unified group. All along the river shouts of encouragement were heard and people were working in tandem with each other. After the trip ended, we formed a circle filled with all of the participants and our incredible guides and shared our gratitude for the experience.
In reflecting on the retreat one participant shared, “[The retreat] was one of those weekends that will stick with me for a really long time… it brought so many strangers together but had us leaving as friends… It was truly a perfect mix of Jewish tradition, spirituality, personal reflection, education, and, of course, fun. It’s weekends like these that remind me that there are so many kind, authentic people out there, and for me personally, it helped me identify a deeper meaning and connection to Judaism which has been an ongoing gap in my life.”
Another participant said: “I am so thankful to have gained you as a friend in less than 48 hours.”
This retreat was made possible due to generous funding by the Moishe House.