As Livnot gears up for our 35th anniversary, we wanted to share with you reflections from the milestone that we celebrated 10 years ago. What happens at a Livnot reunion/retreat? Read on…
Camp Moshava, Honesdale, PA, 2005
by Meir Paltiel
“Retreat” really has a negative connotation to it, doesn’t it? Our whole lives are spent growing, developing, moving forward. If you are standing still, the world passes you by. Don’t misunderstand, sometimes it is absolutely necessary to retreat, but it is not the desired situation. Therefore, calling the Livnot 25th Anniversary Retreat such is a misnomer. It was a personal and communal growth spurt.
I grew up in Upstate New York (you can tell because I capitalize the “U”) and when we crossed the Hudson to head north-northwest, I was transported to my you; the trees, the small towns. But the kicker was walking onto the Camp Moshava grounds, breathing the end of summer, smelling the smells of camp which hold countless memories for so many of us. At this point I was content to spend the weekend playing basketball, boating, watching campfires, and following the deer grazing across the ball field (I saw it), all by myself. But I was blessed.
I was blessed that that day and the next, hundreds of the most amazing people in the world made the pilgrimage to this camp in the middle of nowhere. Not because of any holy site did they come, but because of the holiness of the people themselves and the institution that helped uncover and foster it.
Over the course of three and a half days, Livnot teachers led classes and discussion groups, Chevre shared their personal stories, offered insights into life and were there to lend an ear or a hand or a shoulder to friends, new and old, in need.
There were impromptu discussion groups on politics, relationships and religions (as usual) and a lot of thinking about where I am and what am I doing. It strikes me as odd that we needed to come to Pennsylvania to do that.
The most amazing event during the retreat wasn’t the “Livnot Moment” shared at Oneg Shabbat or the “UN-shul” class on Saturday, although those were amazing. The most amazing event was the number of Jews sitting, singing, dancing, eating, and speaking together. There were kippa-wearing and non-kippa-wearing, young and a bit older; there were singles, new couples, and those with children. There were Jews of every persuasion and preference but for some reason they actually sat at the same table. No one shouted (except for the parent-kid thing, but that’s life). The enormity of this message, that there is a place for every Jew within Judaism and that we can build a community based on this is something that is hard to quantify. We have been classified and have classified others as this or that kind of a Jew. At Livnot, we are all Just Jewish. What peace that simple message brought to that camp at the end of August. What possibilities it holds for the Jewish community.
I have often heard from past Chevre that, “I was at my best when I was at Livnot.”
Perhaps the “best” does not need to retreat with the end of summer but can find expression somehow, everyday, even if just for a minute. If this is true, then I suppose it was ok to retreat for a few days, just this once.
We invite you to celebrate with us again, this Labor Day weekend. Sign up today!