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Nehirim East 2012


Nehirim East is June 15—17, 2012!

Register here – there are about a dozen spots still available

The Nehirim East Spiritual Retreat is Nehirim’s flagship retreat weekend, bringing together over one hundred LGBT Jews from around the country to the beautiful Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Connecticut. This year is our eighth annual retreat, taking place June 15—17, 2012, and is an opportunity to:

EXPLORE your connection to Judaism with spirited­­­ Shabbat services, workshops, and community-led programming.

RELAX and enjoy nature and a beautiful 100-acre site­­­ in the Berkshires, and

CONNECT with an inclusive and diverse community­­­ of LGBT Jews, partners, and allies. We are Orthodox­­­ Jews to atheists, students and seniors, men, women,­­­ and the rest of us. Whoever you are, there are people­­­ like you at Nehirim!

Learn More :


Registration Fee and Financial Aid Information

Registration Fee. We have several room types available. Prices shown below are per person and include all room & board for two nights, and all your program expenses.

Deluxe Double (Weinberg building):­­­ $500

Deluxe Single (Weinberg building):­­­ $625

Standard Single (private bath): $500

Standard Double (private bath): $425

Economy Single (shared bath with one other room):­­­ $450

Economy Double (shared bath with one other room):­­­ $350

Dorm (bathroom down the hall):­­­ $275

Child in room: $175

As of May 23, all our financial aid has been used. ­­­ We encourage you to apply early for future Nehirim retreats!

Register here

Logistical Information

Transportation. For directions and transportation information, please visit To offer or request a ride to the retreat, visit our­­­ Ride Board. ­­­  The retreat center is available by MetroNorth to Wassaic, and a shuttle is available for $15 (non-refundable) from the­­­ Wassaic train station ­­­— please email­­­ info[at] by 5pm on Monday, June 11.­­­ ­­­ to reserve a spot on the shuttle. ­­­  The shuttle will pick up at the train leaving Grand Central at 1:48pm and arriving Wassaic at 4:03 on Friday, June 15. ­­­ The shuttle will drop you off in time for the 2:24pm train on Sunday, arriving Grand Central at 4:41pm.

– For other pickup times or locations,­­­ Lakeville Taxi, (860) 435-8000, is available. Please note that Lakeville Taxi is a reservation service–voicemails for the purpose of reserving rides must be left before 5pm and at least 24 hours in advance. If you plan to arrive by plane, you must either find a ride via the ride board or pay for a taxi through lakeville (around $100). Because Hartford (Bradley) Airport is over an hour away from the retreat center, Isabella Freedman typically cannot provide a shuttle to/from the airport.

– Time. The weekend lasts from 4pm on Friday until 2pm on Sunday. ­­­ In order to maintain the community dynamic, we do ask that retreatants stay for the entire weekend. That said, please let us know at if you will be arriving early or leaving late so we can plan ahead.

For more information, please­­­ email us at info[at]


Friday, June 15
3:00 — 5:00″‹ Arrival, snacks, registration, bookstore shopping”‹
5:00 — 5:30″‹ Welcome and opening program “‹(Rabbi Joel Alter)”‹
5:45 — 6:15 “‹Optional mikvas (bring a towel to opening program!)”‹
­­­— Women’s mikva (Jill Hammer)”‹”‹
­­­— Men’s mikva (Jay Michaelson)”‹”‹

6:15 — 6:45″‹ Get ready for shabbat / more mikvas
­­­— Pan-gender mikva (Randall Furash)”‹
­­­— Alternative to Mikva (Corey Friedlander)”‹”‹

7:00″‹ Candlelighting and Shabbat services
“‹(Jill Hammer & Shoshana Jedwab) (temporal shabbat 8:12)
8:15-9:45″‹ Shabbos Dinner”‹

10:00-10:55 “‹Mishpacha groups”‹

11:00-12:00 “‹Night session”‹
­­­— “‹Tisch (Rabbi Yehuda Greenberg)”‹”‹
“‹­­­— 12-Step Meeting (participant-led)”‹

Shabbat, June 16
8:00-9:00″‹ Morning yoga (Rick Frank)”‹
8:30-9:30″‹ Breakfast”‹
9:45-12:00″‹ Shabbat Morning Davening (Services)
­­­— “‹Traditional davenning (Rabbi Yehuda Greenberg)”‹”‹
­­­— “‹Renewal services (Jill Hammer & Shoshana Jedwab)”‹

12:15-1:30 “‹Kiddush and Lunch”‹”‹
1:45-2:45 “‹Afternoon Session 1 (choose one)
­­­— “‹Jay Michaelson, The New Testament & Homosexuality”‹
­­­— Randy Furash, Connecting with Our Bodies, Connecting with the Divine

3:00—4:00 “‹Afternoon Session 2 (choose one)
­­­— “‹Michael Getty & Brian Vetruba, Jews by Choice
­­­— “‹Barbara Simonivich-Blok, Self Defense”‹

4:15-5:15 Afternoon Session 3 (choose one)
­­­— Traditional Mincha (until 4:45) (Rabbi Yehuda Greenberg)”‹”‹

5:30-6:30″‹ Afternoon Session 4 (choose one)
­­­— Yoga (Rick Frank)”‹
­­­— “‹Penina Weinberg, Full Spectrum Gender in the Bible: “‹The Story of our Foreparent Rebecca

6:40-7:45″‹ Seudah Shlishit (Dinner/Third meal)”‹”‹
8:00-9:00 “‹Mishpacha groups”‹”‹
9:15-9:30 “‹Traditional Maariv (Rabbi Yehuda Greenberg)”‹”‹
9:45-10:15 “‹Havdalah & Dancing (Rabbi Joel Alter)”‹
10:30-11:45 “‹Evening Program (choose one)
­­­— “‹Dream Circle (Rabbi Jill Hammer)
“‹­­­— Film: Antarctica”‹

Sunday, June 17
8:00-8:30″‹ Shacharit (Rabbi Yehuda Greenberg)”‹”‹
8:30-9:30 “‹Breakfast”‹”‹
­­­— “‹Note: Please be out of your rooms by 9:30 AM

9:45-10:45 “‹Sunday session (choose one)
­­­— “‹Arts Workshop (Mimi Yasgor)
­­­— “‹Writing Workshop (Jonathan Vatner)

11:00-12:00 “‹Closing session & final mishpacha group”‹”‹
12:15-1:30″‹ Lunch”‹”‹

“‹”‹Bookstore will be open
“‹Tzeitchem l’shalom!

Retreat Director

Rabbi Joel Alter, Board Secretary

Rabbi Joel Alter serves as the Nehirim Board of Directors Secretary. He  is Director of Admissions for JTS’ Rabbinical and Cantorial schools.  He took up this role after sixteen years of service in pluralistic Jewish day schools as a teacher, rabbinic leader, and administrator.  His commitments to advancing institutions organized around Torah study and Jewish living inform his past and present roles.  Having been a closeted rabbinical student at JTS in the ‘90’s, Joel is particularly proud to be the first out director of admissions for the now inclusive Rabbinical and Cantorial programs at JTS. Joel earned his BA in Jewish History at Columbia University; his rabbinic ordination and an MA in Jewish Education are from JTS.  He received additional training at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.  Shabbat, Torah, Hebrew, hiking, good friends, and good food are among the things that bring him joy.



Barbara Siminovich-Blok

Dr. Barbara Siminovich-Blok is a Naturopathic Doctor and a Licensed Acupuncturist board certified in CT and NY. She has two Master degrees in Biochemistry and a BS in Chemical Engineering. She completed her medical residency at Yale. Born in Argentina and fluent in several languages, she is an active practitioner of Martial Arts like Qi Gung, and Kuhapdo. Her professional interests include integrative and sports medicine, research and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Barbara has a private practice in New York and directs a clinical laboratory in Connecticut.


Rick Frank

Rick Frank trained to be a yoga teacher at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, MA in 2005.   He has taught yoga in a wide range of settings including  a rehabilitation clinic,  psychiatric treatment,  an assisted living facility, a brain injury support group, a prison, a Hyatt hotel, a divinity school, a naked men’s group, and a hair salon. Rick is dedicated to making yoga accessible to people who otherwise would be unable or uncomfortable with attending most yoga classes. He is a licensed occupational therapist, working for Spaulding Rehabilitation Network in the Boston area. He is also a life coach, certified through the Coaches Training Institute and the International Coach Federation.  Rick is proud of his experiences serving on a grand jury and doing volunteer work in prisons. He loves to learn new things, currently learning to sail, and to dance West Coast Swing.

Corey Friedlander, Board Chair

Corey has been participating in Nehirim retreats from the very first one, drawing strength and spiritual nourishment from the community. Certified as a Sh’liakh K’hilah by the Reform Movement in 2005, he serves as Lay Rabbinic Intern at Woodlands Community Temple in White Plains, NY, helping to lead services, perform life cycle events, and teach. He has completed the two-year Me’ah program through Hebrew College in Boston and has studied on retreat with Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi at Elat Chayyim. He has received a distinguished service award from the Westchester Jewish Conference for his work in the community. Professionally, he does marketing for a company in the hardware industry, has managed two bookstores, and was the Director of Professional Development & Education for the American Booksellers Association.


Rabbi Jill Hammer, Ph.D.

Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, is the Director of Spiritual Education at the Academy for Jewish Religion. She is also the director of Tel Shemesh, a website and community celebrating earth-based Jewish traditions, and the co-founder of Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute, a training program in women’s spiritual leadership. Rabbi Jill Hammer was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2001. She also holds a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Connecticut. She is the author of The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons (Jewish Publication Society, 2006) and Sisters at Sinai: New Tales of Biblical Women (Jewish Publication Society, 2001).


Shoshana Jedwab

Shoshana Jedwab is a prize winning Jewish educator and the Jewish Studies Coordinator at the A.J. Heschel Middle School in NYC. She is the founding facilitator of the Makom Drum Circle at the JCC in Manhattan and is a percussionist and performance artist who has trained in bibliodrama and psychodrama. Shoshana has provided empowering drum circles to singles, student, training, and bereavement groups. Shoshana has performed with: Storahtelling, Chana Rothman, Debbie Friedman, Akiva Wharton, A Song of Solomon, Hebrew Mystical Chant with the Kirtan Rabbi, Andrew Hahn, and Tel Shemesh seasonal events.


Dr. Jay Michaelson, Founder

Dr. Jay Michaelson is the author of five booksand over three hundred articles on religion, sexuality, law, and contemplative practice. He is a columnist for The Daily Beast and the Forwardnewspaper, and has been a professional LGBT activist and Jewish activist for fifteen years. Jay’s books include Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Enlightenment, the bestselling God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality, and the landmark report Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign against Civil Rights. He founded two Jewish LGBT organizations, and has supported the work of LGBT activists worldwide at the Arcus Foundation, the Democracy Council, and his new project at the Daily Beast, Quorum: Global LGBT Voices. Jay’s activist work has been featured on NPR, CNN, and in The New York Times. A national voice of progressive Judaism and a teacher of Jewish and Buddhist meditation, Jay holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, and nondenominational rabbinic ordination.  He has held visiting positions at Brown University, Yale University, Harvard Divinity School, and Boston University Law School.


Jonathan Vatner

Jonathan Vatner is the staff writer for Hue, the alumni magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology. He has written for The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, and The Advocate, and his stories have been published in The Westchester Review and The Rag. One of his stories has been anthologized in the Best Gay Stories 2012. His bachelor’s degree comes from Harvard University, his MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.


Brian Vetruba & Michael Getty

Together for almost twenty years, Brian Vetruba and Michael Getty were fortunate to be the twenty-first same-sex couple from the United States to be married in Canada in June of 2003. Their relationship has survived five graduate degrees, multiple career changes, and three cross-country moves. They now reside in St. Louis, where Brian works as an academic librarian and Michael as a technology specialist. Their journey to Judaism began in 2006 with what seemed, at the time, like a series of random events. Michael formally converted in October 2009 and Brian followed suit in June 2010. They have been members of Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis for four years. Earlier this year, they became b’nei mitzvah together, in what for all they know was a first for two married gay converts.


Penina Weinberg

Penina Weinberg is an independent biblical scholar who is President Emeritus of Congregation Eitz Chayim, Cambridge, MA, and on the board of Organic Torah. She recently directed her first Boston retreat for Ruach HaYam. Her Master’s Degree at Hebrew College concentrated on women-centered readings of biblical texts. Current studying and teaching focus a queer lens on the intersection of gender and power in the Hebrew Bible. Penina teaches in Boston area synagogues, and often leads workshops for Nehirim and Keshet. By day she is the Operations Manager for Commonwealth Informatics, where she happily creates order out of chaos with old friends. She can hardly wait to share her love of biblical texts with you.


Randy Furash

Randy Furash is a lay leader and the co-chair of the Prayer and Practice Committee at Beit Ahavah, the Reform synagogue in Northampton, Mass. Having been raised as a secular Jew in a mixed-faith household, he had his Bar Mitzvah at the age of twenty-five and is still learning more and more about religious Judaism every day. He lives in Northampton with his Muslim partner and two step-sons.


Still have questions? Please feel free to email us at

Photos from past Nehirim East retreats:

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