– Written by Michael B and Andrew C –
It was an unseasonably warm Thursday night in January and we were running through Penn Station to make our way onto the train towards Newark Airport. We made it down to the platform and saw the NJ Transit train already pulling out of the station… we missed the train and started worrying we would miss our cross country flight to Phoenix for the weekend’s learning retreat! Anytime you miss your train, it sucks… but thankfully, there was another train only about 30 minutes later!! Since we both have TSA PreCheck, once at the airport, we could breeze through security and get to the gate, maybe even with time to buy dinner; so we stopped freaking out and just started going with the flow.
Once everything was settled, we flew to Phoenix, and deplaned, the first thing on our minds was food. We hopped in an Uber on our way to the Moishe House Phoenix and began reminiscing with old friends from previous retreats + connecting with new ones, all who were hanging out at the House prior to the weekend retreat. The next morning, we boarded the bus and after the short 2-hour ride, arrived at the retreat center ranch. Although most of us have never met, stepping off the bus felt like returning to summer camp and seeing friends you haven’t seen in a year – so many smiles, big hugs, and gracious welcomes! After checking-in, unloading bags, and the endless hugs, programming quickly got started with some classic ice-breakers and a pickling workshop (where we made flavourful pickles)!!
On Friday evening, we dove into experiencing a full-body transformative Kabbalat Shabbat and ma’ariv service – focusing on concentrating the mind into the present and relaxing the body. As the Sabbath continued into Saturday, different learning sessions occurred on various topics including how to create an intriguing D’var Torah and enhance programming skills, as well as learning best techniques for hosting events and welcoming guests effectively! One of the most empowering aspects of the weekend is the ability to unplug and disconnect… putting my phone on airplane mode and not worrying about making plans with friends, dealing with work emails, or getting nonstop news notifications is really an uplifting experience.
Throughout the whole three day retreat, our amazing educators led the various learning sessions and interactive workshops that helped extend knowledge and develop skills to effectively run Shabbat programs! This Moishe House retreat (and all the others they host) are such amazing opportunities to learn, travel, and meet amazing Jewish young professionals all around the world.