The first full day of the retreat was packed from beginning to end with more incredible classes, guests, food, and conversation! The day became even more boistrous and exciting with the arrival of the Sinai Scholars, a super hip young crowd of 150 current and former college students from around the world.
Here are some highlights of the day:
Many retreaters woke up bright and early to attend beginners’ services (for men and for women), designed to help those who usually feel alienated by fast-paced Hebrew texts gain insight into the basics of talking to G-d. Judging by the faces of those leaving the room, it was an uplifting and transformational experience!
A delicious and beautiful breakfast spread awaited everyone who walked into the ballroom this morning, complete with a smoothie bar (I tried my first avocado smoothie - yum!), a bar with omlettes made-to-order, waffle stations, bagels, pastries, spreads, and more! Gotta be well fed for a day of learning!
The one complaint I heard again and again all day was how it was so hard to choose from the workshops and lectures that were conducted simultaneously. Widely sought-after presenters included David Gelernter, Professor of Computer Science at Yale; Rabbi Simon Jacobson, director of the Meaningful Life Center; Jonathan Sarna, Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis; Yehoshua November, an award-winning poet; Dr. Alexander Poltorak of General Patent Corporation; and Dr. Jon Greenberg, agronomist and biblical botanist, who supplemented his workshop with an olive-tasting. The list just doesn’t end!
Dinner was delicious and diverse. An exotic journey of ethnic foods took us all around the world. With separate buffets for Salonica, Greece; Rome, Italy; Casablanca, Moroccan; Paris, France, and the Lower East Side of New York. You can see the full menu at jretreat.com/menu. What a journey!
After dinner, Avraham Cohen shared an inspiring and heart-wrenching presentation about his brother, famous Israel spy, Eli Cohen. Eli, an Egyptian born Jew, successfully entered the upper echelons of the Syrian government as a double agent, obtaining secrets that proved crucial in the victory of Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. Tragically, he was eventually discovered and killed. As one retreater tweeted, “I just learned the real meaning of a hero.” Read more about the story of Eli Cohen here, Stay tuned for more tomorrow!