Looking at the environment through a Jewish lens was the focus of a Jewish Federation-organized Birthright Israel NEXT College Retreat at Starved Rock State Park for college-age alumni of Taglit-Birthright Israel. Upon arrival at our cabins at Grizzly Jack’s Resort, the participants jumped into making a Shabbat meal out of raw materials. We baked challah, made apple cider and chopped vegetables for stews, soups and salads. It was incredible to see a meal come together out of a table of vegetables! The group spent the evening enjoying the meal we made, discussing our Jewish culture and heritage, and playing games.
The next day, Birthright alumni had the opportunity to enjoy Shabbat in nature. In the morning they participated in prayer outdoors. It was a chance to really appreciate our environment. That afternoon, the group went hiking in Starved Rock State Park. The sights and colors were magnificent! Everyone had a great time getting to know each other and seeing the beautiful park. In the evening, we gathered around a campfire and made our own dinner. We sang songs, told ghost stories, and ate s’mores. Later in the evening, participants had a great time with new friends at the resort’s indoor amusement park.
Everyone had a fun, relaxing and meaningful weekend together. As a result of their experience, participants are newly excited about getting involved in the Jewish community, hosting Shabbat dinners, and continuing to learn more about themselves, Judaism and the environment.