Recent Workshops and Shabbatonim Given for Communities
with Rabbi Goldie Milgram--fine to mix and match sessions
THEME 1: Reclaiming Judaism as a Spiritual Practice [alt title: Creating a Mitzvah-Centered Life: Explorations in Jewish Spiritual Practice]
An opportunity for an in-depth, personal encounter with the core spiritual practices of a meaningful Jewish life. Using all sorts of storytelling and experiential and spiritual learning methods we will look at practices we are encouraged to engage in, and those from which our tradition urges us to refrain. We will discuss challenges posed by the tradition, as well as our own lives, and the tension that arises when competing values and practices seem to apply to a given situation. Participants report this theme clarifies "Why being Jewish matters, how being Jewish creates a meaningful life full of joy and support for the journey, and why the Jewish people exists in the first place"
THEME 2: Judaism in Nature [alt title: Torah as Metaphor]
[Note: It's great to be able to hold a good number of the sessions for this topic outdoors but not essential to do so, this is focused on cultivating understanding, awe and unification with the Source through nature and the metaphors of nature that are so little taught and so valuable to a great Jewish life and experience of Judaism as meaningful, this is this sacred underpinning of environmentalism.]
Do you yearn for deep, joyful, experiential adult learning of concepts and practices never taught in Hebrew school that will expand your ability to appreciate the relevance to your life of Torah and Jewish prayer? Embedded within the Chumash are remarkable portals to higher consciousness detected and reported by our sages and the original Kabbalists in Torah, Midrash, Zohar, the siddur and more! On this retreat we will study in depth one of Torah's primary nature metaphors - stone/water (choose one). There will be opportunities for hevruta (pair study of a sacred text - bring a friend or make new friends!) and we also be using may other empowering methods of Jewish experiential and spiritual education.
THEME 3: The Exodus Process: Life as a Spiritual Journey [also nice to have some of these sessions outdoors]
Metaphors in the Exodus stories are powerful for helping us to navigate the journey called life. Through activities that draw on nature, our personal stories and stories from Torah, midrash and contemporary Jewish literature we will grow closer to each other and deepen our understanding of spirituality and the powerful role of Judaism in advancing the "Torah of Relationships."
THEME 4: Jewish Spiritual Education: The Torah of Relationships
The majority of Jewish spiritual practices focus on our relationship to self-care, care for others, the planet and experiencing God. Through the methods of Jewish experiential and spiritual education we will explore many of the beautiful, powerful approaches to the "Torah of Relationships" often invisible within Jewish education that are glorious to explore and integrate honorably within our own lives.
EXAMPLE INDIVIDUAL SESSIONS:
1. How Happiness & Holiness Happen: The Art of Soulful Jewishing
What is the soul? How is soulful Judaism accomplished? What is the role of Judaism in creating a happy and healthy life? Each person will conduct their inner personal Jewish spiritual assessment through a tool and activities developed by Rabbi Goldie Milgram. This leads to discovery of the many Jewish nutrients for the "soulstream" that help us to do more than survive, to rather, indeed thrive on the awesome and sometimes challenging journey called life.
2. Do You Always Have to Forgive?
Judaism's spiritual practice known as teshuva is vastly more healthy and effective than its typical translation "forgiveness". Come explore this deeply important aspect of the "Torah of Relationships" and see where your soul's journey intersects in ways that can lead to awareness, hope and healing within, between and across the generations.
3. The Kabbalah of Shabbat
The original Kabbalists created many of the aspects of Shabbat that are practiced today, but few understand what is really meant to be experienced spiritually because this is never explained in Hebrew school or adult ed. Come meet with the author of Reclaiming Judaism as a Spiritual Practice: Holy Days and Shabbat (Jewish Lights Publishing) and develop a spiritual understanding that may well change your relationship to Shabbat at home and in services forever. This session will cover deep and joyful approaches relevant to every kind of Jewish family in a context of respectful pluralism.
4. The God of Curried Fish: A Mitzvah Centered Story and Discussion Session
How do we find a comfort level within ourselves that allows for meaningful encounters with those who are homeless and/or unemployed? We will hear stories from the provocative, new, adult-level, juried volume Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning (Reclaiming Judaism Press). Relevant Jewish text study and discussion will follow.
5. Touched by Torah
Rabbi Goldie Milgram’s efforts to find a meaningful interpretation of some of the more illusive Torah portions led her to help create the field of Jewish healing. In this session you will look at the sacrificial system through totally new eyes and discover some of the deepest wisdom and healing possible, without ever shedding a drop of blood. These studies led Rabbi Goldie Milgram to meetings with Hebrew University’s faculty in the History of Bible and Medicine. She went from there to England to sharing research findings with a monk following the same material who used to work in the Vatican Library, and then all the way to the Vatican Library itself to review ancient manuscripts. As a result, in this session we will unravel mysteries about symptoms shared by the the Prophetess Miriam, King Hezekiah, some members of the priesthood, and a house, as we immerse in a rewarding Torah study adventure in all four traditional dimensions -- physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
6. What's in a Name?
Creating a meaningful connection to one's Jewish name, or finding a new one for yourself or a future family member is such a joyful option. Connections throughout text and tradition, in addition to family lineage, are embedded within many Jewish names. We learn in Sefer Meor Gadol that "There is a spiritual connection between the name of an individual and a person's soul. The word neshama stems from the word neshima (Gen 2:7). A soul's essence is divine and a person's name refers to this essence...the central letters of neshama are shin mem, meaning name. Indeed some have written that the higher soul comes to the child when [s]he is given a Jewish name." Bring your name and curiosity and learn at least six methods, including craft, stories, texts, prayers and photo shoots for bonding to one's Jewish name for life. [I have a good craft project to go with this for all ages]
THEME 4: Bar/Bat Mitzvah Family Adventure
Spirituality, meaning and motivation & joy of time meaningful time together - Rabbi Goldie Milgram, author of Reclaiming Bar/Bat MItzvah as a Spiritual Practice helps participants to expand the relevance, meaning and joy of this special time.
- Bar/Bat Mitzvah Action Plan (BMAP) involves a simple, yet profound process that deepens parent/child compassionate listening skills, while eliciting and building upon the emotions being experienced by students and families in anticipation of bar/bat mitzvah.
- The Power of Chaver: You'll delight in the rapid rapport possible through a process that allows students to better appreciate who is "in the inner circle of their lives," the importance of being part of a community, and what the essence of healthy friendship can be.
- D'var Torah Olympics where the power of metaphor, a key portal to meaning for B'nei Mitzvah-age students becomes an empowering interpretive tool, bringing families closer to Torah for life.
-Who Will I Be In My Community? Bringing your talents and skills into service of your community is part of what makes for a meaningful Jewish life. As you look over the list of remarkable ways to involve yourself across the broadest possible definition of Jewish life you will find ways to get involved throughout your life. Everyone needs to feel wanted and involved rather than always face the ark, the game, the teacher, the computer...come get excited about what might be the very reason you were born!
-Mitzvah-Centering: Before western synagogues, this rite of passage was designated for ensuring that we know how to live mitzvah-centered, rather than self-centered lives, while also appreciate those mitzvot [pl] that help us engage in self-care, care for others, the planet and our relationship to what we experience as Godly. Come discover 52 mitzvah-centered Jewish spiritual practices that support youth and families to will love life, respect life and choose life.
- Two Wings to Fly: Love & Awe: Cultivation of self as a vessel for healthy and holy living is central to a meaningful young adult Jewish life and ever-after. Discover a spiritual approach to mussar, Jewish awareness practice as a process of spiritual development through the lens of balance, story, and honesty-to-self.
- Ten Sacred Developmental Shifts are possible during the B'nei Mitzvah season, our process together will reveal them and show you how to ensure success in all four dimensions of this rite of passage: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual.
Full Retreat/Shabbaton Examples
A. Mixed Theme Shabbaton
Kabbalat Shabbat: 10 minutes in "sermon spot" interactive dialogue with community on shabbaton: Creating a Mitzvah-Centered Life [better title for some settings is Creating a Jewish Spiritual Life..same contents just a titling issue]
Shabbat Morning: Created and ensemble led a Farbrengen-style service with support from local Jewish musicians (That's the 8-10 Shabbat morning prayers discussed in the Talmud with a powerful mitzvah-centered story woven between them and an integral community-leyned 3 aliyah Torah service)
Saturday oneg: Workshop on mitzvot that are powerful daily Jewish spiritual practices (incorporating Mitzvah Cards I created that language mitzvot through a spiritual lens)
Saturday evening Mitzvah-Centered Storytelling farbrengen Havdallah
Sunday morning: B Mitzvah! Family Adventure program (Included b'nei mitzvah age youth and families also from the Conservative synagogue). Youth selected the mitzvah of lo tikom, how to refrain from holding a grudge, as their focus once they'd sorted their Mitzvah Cards.
Sunday from 1 pm: Full community Global Day of Learning
B. Mixed Theme Shabbaton
Friday Tot Shabbat 5-5:30 pm: Told mitzvah-centered Ethiopian story with toddlers and parents interacting with me and one of my many hand puppets
Regular Friday night service given by rabbi and I led a candle-lighting meditation (5 levels of the soul) the sermon spot: "How Happiness Happens: An Exploration of Soulful Jewishness"
Shabbat morning (they had a bar mitzvah and no room for more people in the space so I slept in) Shabbat after services after the oneg: Experiential Education approach to teaching text: "Touched by Torah: Looking at the Sacrificial System through New Eyes"
Havdallah Fargrengen-style program: The God of Curried Fish: A Mitzvah-Centered Story
Sunday morning: Intergenerational program adults and grade 7
"What's in a Jewish Name?"
1-2 PM Steinzaltz Global Day of Learning (whole community)
I gave the interactive keynote based on Jewish tradition that "All faces in Torah are the Face of G*d"
2-3 PM In-service training for region's Jewish educators: Introduction to Methods of Jewish Spiritual Education under theme of "Creating a Mitzvah-Centered Life" each community bought one of our Mitzvah Card decks for participating teachers ($8 each for 12 or more)
C. Exploring the Two Wings a Soul Needs to Fly: Awe and Love
Friday night: Led candle-lighting meditation and in sermon spot using storytelling and text reader (available) introduced theme of mitzvah of Yirah [Judaism teaches for a mitzvah-centered life to be realized the soul needs to wings to fly: Ahavah and Yirah, Love and Awe]
Saturday am: Led creative service that I built on conference call together with volunteers in dance/movement/theatre/music/meditation from the synagogue.
Saturday after Oneg: Experiential text study on theme of Yirah (awesome/fearsome) vs pachad (fear).
Sunday 8 am: Led Jewish meditation service out in nature in national park
Sunday 10-12: B Mitzvah! Family Adventure Workshop with B'nei mitzvah families
Sunday 2-3: Storytelling at Jewish Home for the Agenda
Sunday 3-4: Text study on Yirah with assisted living and independent living residents
D. DIFFERENT MODEL (FOR A REGION)
Topic was "Do You Always Have to Forgive?" )
Friday night: Reform Congregation: Story and discussion
Saturday morning: Conservative Congregation
Deep text study and discussion : Saturday afternoon: Experiential, playful and yet serious approaches to Teshuvah with families in a picnic setting (community-wide)
Sunday morning: BJE: Educator in-service training in methods of Mitzvah-Centered Jewish Spiritual Education
Sunday afternoon: 3 hr Do You Always Have to Forgive workshop (Reconstructionist Congregation) 1.5 hours away
E.Theme "Metaphors Be with You"
Friday night: Torah of Metaphor [I'm presently writing on this topic], teachings done as "voice overs" during the regular service to show the powerful metaphoric portals to "connection" within prayer and Torah
Saturday after oneg: Text study on metaphor of Rock [tzur/evehn] within Torah Saturday night: Farbrengen style with Ohr/Light metaphor
Sunday morning: Expressive arts study of water/mayyim metaphor within Torah, midrash, tefillah, Zohar
F. For Sukkot
Friday night: Metaphor of Anan/Cloud Part I, poetry and text study during oneg
Saturday service in nature: Co-created fabrengen style during conference calls with local talent/leaders
Saturday late afternoon: Sunday studies lying on our backs with texts and meditation on Anan/Cloud on a knoll over the ocean
Sunday morning: B'nei Mitzvah Family Adventure Program
Sunday pm: Expressive arts exploration of mitzvah of Sukkah and understanding of Anan/Cloud
[this model works beautifully for focusing on only one metaphor each time , e.g., stone, water, fire, cloud, tree, etc.]
G. THEME: Jewish Healing [also led a version of this for the AMA and the APA]
Friday night: Story/teaching in sermon spot
Friday oneg: open mike: "Healing from the Wounds of Growing Up Jewish" I shared my story and then opened the floor to stories from those present (fascinating and important doorways to healing opportunities)
Saturday: Led bibliodrama on expulsion of Hagar during the service
Saturday after oneg: Depth study in methods of Jewish healing using a core Talmudic text on depression
Saturday night: Women's Jewish healing session with local Rosh Chodesh group Sunday morning: Jewish healing ritual based on study of sacrificial system Torah text on " mistakes of leaders"
H. Theme: Jewish Bio-Ethics: How Science and Religion Meet in Healthy and Holy Ways [I taught Jewish Bio-ethics for many many years for the various seminaries, and still consult in the field]
Friday Night: Story to introduce theme in sermon spot
Friday Oneg Discussion: Organ Transplantation: The Incredible Story of Judaism as an Evolving Spiritual Practice
Shabbat Morning Oneg Text Study: Designer Babies: Fascinating Controversies in Jewish Bioethics
Havdallah: Exploration by Candlelight:
Judaism: When Does Life Begin and End?
Sunday Morning: Lobbying Congress: Opening discussion and study of hot topics followed by break-out groups to plan community initiatives [Consider inviting interested Hillel students and teens too, to this and most of these shabbaton models]