By Rebeccah Stromberg
This past weekend we Lewis Summer Interns—L-SIPS for short—gathered together for the long awaited weekend intern retreat. For me, it was the first time since our three-day orientation that we had uninterrupted time to just completely concentrate on building relationships amongst ourselves, an opportunity I was very much excited about going into the weekend. We managed to start the weekend off beating the rain with our intern-led pre-Shabbat tie-dye experience. It was my first time doing tie-dye, and all I needed to do was ask any previous Jewish camper to fill me in on what I had to do next whenever I was unsure what was going on in the tie-dye process.
For me, one of the most interesting parts of any Jewish retreat that brings together a diverse group of Jews is figuring out how we collectively come together to express Shabbat, especially when Shabbat can mean something different to each and every one of us. We all brought our songs and tunes to the table, and many of us taught our particular song traditions, whether they were from camp or Hebrew school, to the group.
One of my favorite parts by far of the weekend was Oneg Shabbat —after eating and singing we split into smaller, more intimate groups to talk about our Jewish journeys and how we'd gotten to be here, in this room, with a cohort of other young Jews. While we had been exploring issues of Jewish identity throughout our entire internship, we finally had the time to sit down and just talk openly and without any particularl framing about our Jewish path. These conversations, for some groups intense and personal, gave Shabbat a special note of sharing and openness that lasted the rest of the night and into the next day. We stayed up late talking and playing games, had intense peer-led discussions about questions of Jewish medical and business ethics and spirituality throughout the next day, and eventually ended our Shabbat experience with a bonfire by the lake roasting s'mores and singing Havdalah songs. The American interns got to introduce the timeless camp tradition of the s'more to the Ukrainian interns, who had never had a s'more in their lives. It was this mix of informal relationship building coupled with structured discussions and times for song that made the weekend unlike any other time in this internship—a time for us to just be with each other and share common time to have common experiences that brought us closer together.