“Anything but ordinary.”
That’s how Marty Paley of Newton, chair of the 75th annual Retreat of the New England Region (NER) of the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) describes the event to be held June 9–12 at Camp Ramah in Palmer.
Traditionally a highlight of the NER FJMC event calendar, this is the group’s first live event in three years due to COVID. He expects some 100 participants from the New England states. This is the oldest Jewish men’s retreat in the U.S.
There will be two scholars-in-residence: Rabbi Jeffrey S. Summit, whose CD, “Abayudaya: Music from the Jewish People of Uganda,” was nominated for a GRAMMY award; and his CD, “Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music and Interfaith Harmony in Uganda,” which won Best World Music CD by the Independent Music Awards. He holds an appointment as research professor in the Department of Music and Judaic Studies at Tufts University and is a senior consultant for Hillel International directing the project “Living Our Values.” He holds appointments at Tufts as emeritus Neubauer executive director of Tufts Hillel and Emeritus Jewish Chaplain. He is director of Hebrew College’s Innovation Lab.
Another Retreat highlight will be Rabbi Jim Rosen, spiritual leader of Beth El Temple in West Hartford, who has written and spoken extensively on disability and Judaism, conversion, and modern Israel. Rabbi Rosen served on the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly and on the Chancellor’s Cabinet of the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is a past president of the Connecticut Valley Region of the Rabbinical Assembly.
In addition, the retreat will include events such as ‘Jewish Jeopardy’, ‘the Poker Tov’ Poker Tournament,’ with proceeds donated to Camp Ramah’s special needs program; whiskey tasting; a bike ride to historic Quabbin Reservoir; and a camp fire.
“It’s a labor of love. Where else can you spend three days making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, discussing timely issues with highly-respected rabbis, totally relax, and enjoy old-fashioned camaraderie and delicious kosher meals?” said Paley, who has attended and helped organize most of the last 30 NER FJMC Retreats.
The Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs is the international umbrella organization for some 200 men’s groups serving 20,000 men across the U.S. and Canada. The influence of FJMC’s programs and contributions is felt worldwide. Their mission is to involve Jewish men in Jewish life. Programs have a profound impact on congregations, youth, world Jewry, and environmental programs.
Three-time retreat co-chair Dr. Steve Broder, a psychologist and former professor at Boston University, said he looks forward to the annual get-together: “It’s like being back at summer camp – informal, friendly, totally immersed in nature. The experience reduces your blood pressure. Speakers are engaging and each day provides opportunities to discuss important topics with others related to family, health, work, retirement. It’s like a three-day Kiddush,” Broder smiles.
Elliot Feldman, an FJMC vice president and former retreat chair, smiles as he sums up the excitement of organizing the first in-person Retreat in three years: “It’s Jewish men together again.”