I was nervous about going to the Livnot Shabbaton/Reunion Retreat this past weekend.

Primarily, I was nervous for the following reasons:

1. I didn’t know anyone else going. I had gone through the Livnot program 8 years ago, and I didn’t see any of my Livnot 195 Chevre who had responded “yes” to the invite.

2. The whole “camping” thing. I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I enjoy manicures, Bloomingdales, and my super comfy bed. I dislike bugs. Would this weekend be torture?

3. My friends were doing other things this Labor Day that they had invited me to – the beach, BBQ’s, and other generic drinking events. Should I just do that, and stay in my comfort zone?

But. Something was telling me I had to go to the Reunion Retreat. Deep inside my heart…I knew I had to be there. Something touched my soul, my neshama, when I was in Tzfat with Livnot in 2007. I wanted to reawaken that spark. So I packed (overpacked) my suitcase(s), bug spray, sleeping bag, and pillow, and off I went.

And wow. Am I glad I did. The retreat was amazing. It was truly like being in Israel again.Livnot Retreat Kabbalat Shabbat

I truly knew I was feeling that Livnot spark during the first night, at Shabbat. We all sat in a circle and talked about acts of Chesed (kindness) that we’ve experienced, or that we have done for others. It was so wonderful to hear everyones stories. We laughed, we cried, and we shared. That is what is so special about Livnot chevre and staff. They are SO open, SO kind, and SO genuine. It is always a safe space to share without judgement. You simply do not get that everywhere. My neshama felt very happy in that moment – and that was just the beginning of the weekend!

The next day, we had an AMAZING “un-shul” with the INCREDIBLE Michael Even-Esh. (That was an option instead of going to Shabbat Services). During the un-shul, there was a question posed to us by Michael: why are you here, at the un-shul, instead of at the synagogue? That brought about a really stimulating and interesting conversation about the state of Judaism and synagogues in North America today. Intellectual, fun, and eye opening. My neshama yet again was tingling with happiness.

Did I mention the people at the Livnot Retreat yet? I think I did. Well I’m going to say it again. Every single person there was so special. The staff…I could go on for days about each and every staff member. Then – the CHEVRE! The chevre rocked. I made awesome friends. So unique, so cool, so intelligent. Matt Bar – that dude can rap.. Rebecca Raider? She rocks out on the electric guitar. Kenny on the trumpet? UN-real!  Even though everyone was so diverse in their interests, everyone was so special in their own way, and we all had one thing in common: our love for Livnot, and that connection, that connection to Judaism, and that connection to spirituality that we all yearn for, and that we all find in Livnot.

Coming out of the weekend, I know one thing: I want to keep this going. I want to have Shabbat dinners with my NYC chevre. I want to celebrate Tu B’Shvat, I want to sing, I want to dance, I want to connect. NYC Chevre, and Chevre all around the world – let’s do this! And thank you ALL for an amazing amazing weekend. I’m so glad I skipped the manicure and came on board. :)

Sam Boltax (195)