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Nehirim West 2013

Register Now – We have about ten spots remaining

March 1—3, 2013

Walker Creek Ranch, Petaluma, CA

Nehirim West Gathering is a shabbaton (think “weekend getaway“) composed of heartfelt connection, soulful community and spiritual conversation, culture, food, fun for LGBT Jews, partners, and allies.

WHEN? ­­­ Friday to Sunday, March 1—3, 2013

WHO? ­­­  Nehirim retreats generally attract 60-80 LGBT Jews (plus straight allies and non-Jewish partners) from across the religious-ideological spectrum, ranging in age from 18-70 (usually, most are in their 20s-40s), and with a wide variety of gender and sexual orientation identities.­­­ Transgender nice Jewish boys, avowed atheists, couples and­­­ singles, men, women, and the rest of us ­­­— there are people like you at Nehirim!

PARTICIPATE: Directed by Rabbi David Dunn Bauer, this retreat is largely community-led. Our presenters come from a broad range of religious and secular backgrounds. Rabbis, drag queens, doctors, university professors, queer activists and artists ­­­— some of the most innovative and interesting queer Jewish folks from around the country. In addition to Rabbi Deb Kolodny, Zvi Bellin, and Jay Michaelson, the roster of talented teachers from within our community includes Sam Goldman, Jeff Braverman, Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer, and Dr. Ilana Sherer. Teaching opportunities are still available, though. So, if you have a workshop topic in mind, go ahead, email us us an offer we can’t refuse!

Expect nature hikes, Shabbat services with lots of music, and a Queer-Jewish Skills Swap Meet where you can learn to make sauerkraut, tie rainbow tzitzit, bake challah, and take better pictures with your camera or iPhone. We will read some of Adrienne Rich and we will watch the work of Bay Area Queer Jewish filmmakers. There will be heart-circles where we get to know each other better, and opportunities to nap and relax and luxuriate in being on retreat together. Some conversations will have a strong Queer edge to them as we talk about gender, sexuality, social justice, and politics; some moments will be infused with Torah teaching drawing on Jewish wisdom from every era of our history; and substantial time will be spent laughing, singing, playing zany games, shmoozing, and noshing. You can go to bed early and sleep late or vice versa. For folks bringing children we will have activities you can do together and we’ll facilitate some moments where you’ll be playing independently.


Thanks to the generosity of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the pricing for the retreat has been substantially subsidized.

Single ­­­— $575
Double ­­­— $425
Triple ­­­— $300
Dorm/Cabin (camp bunk accommodations) ­­­— $210
Camping (bring your own tent and equipment!) ­­­— $120
Child ­­­— $125

WHERE? The Retreat is taking place at beautiful­­­ Walker Creek Ranch­­­ in Petaluma, CA. To offer or request a ride to the retreat, visit our­­­ Ride Board.

Register Now


Friday, March 1
4:00 Arrival and check-in at Walker Creek Ranch
4:30 Mishpacha Leader Training (Zvi Bellin)
5:00 Welcome & Opening Circle
5:45 Candle lighting
6:00 Musical Kabbalat Shabbat (Aaron Danzig & Rabbi Deb Kolodny)
7:15­­­ Shabbat Dinner
8:45 Mishpacha Groups
10:00 Tisch ­­­— Songs & Stories with performances by Jason K. Friedman & Jay Michaelson

Saturday, March 2
8:00­­­ Fountain of Blessing (Juna Madrone)
9:00 Breakfast
10:00 Morning Offerings
­­­— Shabbat Shacharit Services with a Dvar in Motion with Rabbi Deb Kolodny & Reba Connell
­­­— Community Organizing in New Orleans with Jordan Aiken
12:30 Lunch
1:30 Afternoon Session 1
­­­— “My Heifer is Redder Than Yours!” Torah Study for Shabbat Parah with Zvi Bellin
­­­— Nature Awareness Meditative Walk with Sam Goldman
2:45 Afternoon Session 2
­­­— Reading (Adrienne) Rich with Gabriel Stein-Bodenheimer
­­­— Building a Wider Bridge with Arthur Slepian
­­­— Queering Your Seder with Reba Connell
4:00 Afternoon Session 3
­­­— “It’s a ­­­…!?” When children don’t fit in gender boxes with Dr. Ilana Scherer
­­­—­­­ “Intro to Permaculture” with Or Rabinowiz
5:00 Last chance for a shabbes nap!
5:30­­­ Mishpacha Groups
6:30­­­ Dinner
7:30 Havdalah with Jay Michaelson and Rabbi Deb Kolodny
8:00­­­ Movie Night: (Un)Cut (Screening of film footage by documentarian Jeffrey Braverman about the recent anti-circumcision campaign in the Bay Area) and Short LGBT Films from Israel ­­­  (or play some fun games)
10:00 Campfire, s’mores, and more­­­…

Sunday, March 3
9:30 Breakfast/Brunch
10:30 Queer Jewish Skills Swap Meet
­­­— Make your own sauerkraut with Sam Goldman
­­­— Tie your own rainbow tzitzit with Rabbi David Dunn Bauer
­­­— Calligraphy with Jordan Aiken
­­­— Vision Board making with Zvi Bellin
12:30 Closing Circle
1:00 Time to go home (or maybe to lunch in Petaluma)

Retreat Director

Rabbi David Dunn Bauer

Rabbi David Dunn Bauer serves on the Board of Directors  for Nehirim and is the Director of Social Justice Programming for Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (CBST) in NYC.  David brings to his work over 20 years of professional theater experience, nine years in the congregational rabbinate, and 20 years of yoga practice, as well as academic study on sexuality and spirituality and many years of work as a touch healer and sacred intimate. David earned his B.A. in Theatre Studies and English Literature at Yale University, studied Talmud at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and received his rabbinical ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. In 2011, he became the first Jew to earn the Certificate in Sexuality and Religion from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, writing on “Blessings for the Erotic Body” and “Jewish Queer Sexual Ethics.” Along with Michael Cohen, he created Body Electric’s first ever Jewish retreat (“Celebrating the Body Judaic”) in 2006. David interned at CBST in 2000-2001 and from 2003 to 2010 he served as the rabbi of the Jewish Community of Amherst, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Based until recently in San Francisco, he maintains a private practice in Queer Spiritual Counseling. Sought after as a scholar-in-residence, has taught about Queer Theology around the United States and Canada.



Zvi Bellin PhD

Dr. Zvi Bellin is the Engagement Associate for Nehirim and is responsible for pastoral counseling, community relations, and programming at Nehirim retreats. He leads workshops and directs retreats that integrate body-heart-mind-soul in a variety of spiritual and religious contexts. Zvi earned a PhD in Pastoral Counseling and an M.A. in Counseling and Guidance. He is a Registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance. He has worked as a therapist in a number of mental health settings, and has interned as a Psychiatric Chaplain. In addition to his work with Nehirim, Zvi is the Director of Jewish Education for Moishe House.


Deb Kolodny

Debra Kolodny joined Nehirim as its Executive Director in March of 2013. She brings over thirty years of local and national leadership in LGBT organizations, including five years as National Coordinator for BiNet USA, six years facilitating NGLTF’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable, editing Blessed Bi Spirit: Bisexual People of Faith, publishing dozens of articles on religion and sexuality, and teaching hundreds of venues on the topic of Judaism, sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition to her work with Nehirim she is active in interfaith social justice work and is a frequent guest speaker, ritualist, and teacher. Prior to joining P’nai Or she served as Executive Director of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal for nine years and was the rabbi of P’nai Or of Portland. Rabbah D’vorah has been practicing taiji since 1995 and meditation for almost as long and is passionate about ecstatic dance. -


Dr. Jay Michaelson, Founder

Jay Michaelson is the founder of Nehirim. For the last ten years, Jay has been a leading advocate for the inclusion of sexual minorities in religious communities, and his work in this area has been featured on NPR, CNN, and the New York Times. Jay is also a contributing editor to the Forward, Associate Editor of Religion Dispatches magazine, and a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. In 2009, he was included on the Forward 50 list of the top-50 men and women leading the American Jewish community into the 21st century. He is the author of four books, including Evolving Dharma: Meditation, Buddhism, and the Next Generation of Englightenment and God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality.


Jordan Aiken

Jordan Aiken is currently a Research Assistant on Clyde Woods’s manuscript “Development Drowned and Reborn: Post-Katrina New Orleans.” She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2009 and moved to New Orleans as a member of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, where she worked as the Employment Coordinator at the New Orleans Women’s Shelter. While in New Orleans, she founded Ayla, a non-profit organization working to build queer Jewish community in Louisiana and Mississippi, serving as its Director for two and a half years. Jordan will start law school in the fall of 2013, and also co-founded a scribal arts business.


Sam Goldman

Sam Goldman has been the California wilderness coordinator for The Wilderness Society in San Francisco since the Fall of 2007. This job takes Sam around California working to permanently protect our public lands: national parks, national forests, and other wild places. Sam is active with Wilderness Torah, a new organization committed to re-connecting Judaism to the earth and he is chair of the upcoming Passover in the Desert pilgrimage festival. Sam is a member of Chochmat Halev in Berkeley and enjoys hiking, mountaineering, skiing, backpacking, and fishing.


Ilana Sherer, MD

Ilana Sherer, MD is a pediatrician with a passion for creating a better world for gender diverse children and adolescents. While in residency, she created the UCSF Child and Adolescent Gender Center, and now serves as its Assistant Medical Director. She works as an urgent care pediatrician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and recently also started as the Medical Director for Daly City Youth Health Center. She also writes and lectures nationally to medical audiences about gender variant and transgender children. In her free time, she plays a mean klezmer violin and explores the Bay Area by bike and on foot with her wife.


Or Rabinowiz

Or Rabinowiz received his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from UC Santa Cruz. His main passions include environmental, social, and personal sustainability. Since the start of 2012, he has been working as a Permaculture Designer/Team Leader for Planting Justice. He co-facilitates workshops in the Be Present Empowerment Model, a tool for dialogue, developing effective relationships, and addressing the impact of race, gender, class, power, and other divides, on our personal and collective well being.


Nehirim West 2013 is made possible by the generous support of the Walter & Elise Haas Fund and is cosponsored by Keshet and Congregation Sha’ar Zahav.