by: Foundation for Jewish Camp Articles & Press Releases December 6, 2023

Pearlstone Hosts Healing Retreat for Israeli Families in Baltimore

REISTERSTOWN, MD – The weekend of November 10-12, 2023, was originally supposed to be quiet with a couple of small retreats at Pearlstone, located in Reisterstown, MD. But after war broke out in Israel, the executive staff at Pearlstone quickly realized their beautiful land, conference space and retreat lodging could serve as a space for solace and community-building. Pearlstone’s team jumped into action, engaging representatives from the Shinshinim Hub at Jewish Educational Services, the Foundation for Jewish Camp, and the Associated as partners. As headquarters of Adamah, North America’s largest Jewish environmental organization, Pearlstone’s response to this crisis sets the stage for replication at other Jewish retreat centers nationwide.

Ashley Pressman, Chesapeake Region Program Director at Pearlstone, felt honored to be able to organize and execute this retreat on such short notice. “There was so much demand that the retreat sold out in four days.” she said. “We realized how much local Israeli families needed an opportunity to gather and have a chance to begin the healing process, even as they are continuing to experience fear and trauma.”

Immediately upon arrival, guests were heard saying, “I didn’t realize how much I needed this.” Another guest commented, “before we arrived, we discussed how many of us felt alone – it is difficult for other friends in the US to understand how we feel.”

Immersed in a deeply Jewish, mostly Hebrew environment, gaggles of kids played together while adults felt comfortable enough to begin to release the acute stress and anxiety they’ve been holding for many weeks. They could exhale and recenter themselves through Hitbotedut (solo Jewish prayer in nature), connect and share stories on a night hike, sing and cry out together at Havdalah and around the campfire, and find powerful healing in the simple act of putting their hands upon the earth. Families loved Pearlstone’s farm animals, the PJ Library storybook walk, zipline, arts & crafts, delicious food, and more. There were trauma and healing discussions, lessons in kabbalah, and self-care activities such as yoga, tai-chi, and acupuncture.

“This weekend was definitely the highlight of my visit to the States at this time. The combination of nurturing, stillness, majestic nature, comradery, good food, spirituality, music, and the amazing abundance of Hebrew hit the spot!” exclaimed Rachelle Tehila Martin, who has been staying with relatives in Baltimore since leaving Israel after October 7.

“We’ve always believed in the power of Jewish retreating, but this gathering was on a different level of holiness. There is a deep yearning to be together right now and we will continue to meet this need.” said Jakir Manela, Adamah CEO.

Ruth Miller, Chief Planning Officer of The Associated Jewish Federation of Baltimore agreed, “It’s gratifying to see the way Pearlstone has gathered Israeli friends and families to promote healing, and to see yet another way Associated nonprofits support our Israeli sisters and brothers.”

Foundation for Jewish Camp helped make this powerful gathering possible, through the national family camp initiative, JFAM. “JFAM embraced a pivotal opportunity to provide essential funding and support to a program actively addressing the crisis in Israel,” says Michele Friedman, Director, New Camp Initiatives for Foundation for Jewish Camp. “We were happy to help aid the families experiencing heightened feelings of nervousness and isolation, during this challenging period.”

Pearlstone hosts three JFAM retreats each year in addition to hosting Jewish Holiday and Family Farm Camp retreats. To learn more about Pearlstone and see upcoming retreats, visit adamah.org/pearlstone.

Pearlstone is an Agency of The Associated Jewish Federation of Baltimore and the Headquarters for Adamah.

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore strengthens and nurtures Jewish life by engaging and supporting community partners in Greater Baltimore, Israel and around the world. For more information visit associated.org

Adamah cultivates vibrant Jewish life in deep connection with the earth, catalyzing culture change and systemic change through Jewish Environmental Education, Immersive Retreats, and Climate Action. JFAM family camps believe every Jewish family belongs at family camp and seeks to warmly welcome all family structures, families with members who do not identify as Jewish, families of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, and families with children and/or adults with disabilities. For more information, visit jewishcamp.org/jfam

Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC) is dedicated solely to expanding the reach and deepening the impact of Jewish summer camps. As central advocate and convener for the field, FJC scales financial support, programs, and resources benefiting over 300 nonprofit Jewish day and overnight camps that serve 180,000 young people across North America each summer. For more information, visit jewishcamp.org.