My name is Rabbi Jessy Dressin, and I am a community rabbi in Baltimore and the Director of Repair the World Baltimore, an organization that aims to make meaningful service a defining part of American Jewish life by mobilizing young Jews to volunteer in local communities to help transform neighborhoods, cities, and lives through service experiences rooted in Jewish values.
I have not been to a CCAR Convention to date but was excited to be asked to join the CCAR Convention 2020 Committee and help curate opportunities that are special to Baltimore for Convention participants. There are so many things about Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish community to share with colleagues both during and prior to Convention that are special to Charm City.
Many of you may have visited the Pearlstone Conference and Retreat Center for various conferences over the years. If you have, you have probably appreciated such a vast space of land dedicated to Jewish education, experience, and gathering. You may have even been lucky enough to enjoy some homegrown produce from the farm at one of your kosher and conscious meals provided to guests during conferences and gatherings.
Whether you have visited Pearlstone before or this might be your first time, I am excited about a unique opportunity for rabbis to participate in as part of the pre-Convention track. Our visit to Pearlstone will include the opportunity to roll up our sleeves and help with some preparations in various ways for the upcoming farming season. Activities may range from prepping beds, starting seeds (planting seeds that can incubate in the greenhouse until they are rooted enough to be planted into the ground), and other fun preliminary activities that are essential for an abundant growing season that begins with the coming of spring. Also, baby goats! Just this last week, two baby goats were born at Pearlstone, which means there will likely be even more by the time we arrive in March.
During our visit we will also have the opportunity to do some learning with Rabbi Psachyah Lichtenstein, a farmer and Director of Education at the Pearlstone Center, who always finds way to engage the mind, body, and spirit in thinking about our Jewish connection to the land. He will engage us in rich learning and open up conversations amongst our group that are sure to inspire. We will also have the opportunity to do some additional learning to take what we experienced at Pearlstone and help us bring it back to our local communities—since we can’t all have a Pearlstone around the corner.
As an HUC-JIR student, I spent two summers living at Pearlstone. Thanks to Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, Pearlstone hosted a summer kollel where folks would work to farm the land in the morning and spend the afternoon in the beit midrash, learning traditional and contemporary Jewish texts that helped us to become better acquainted with Judaism’s deep relationship to the land and our agricultural cycles and rhythm. It was a pluralistic living and learning environment that forged relationships and uncovered texts that carry meaning to this day.
One need not be a farmer, an environmentalist, or even a regular farmer’s market enthusiast to enjoy this experience. I hope you’ll consider joining us for this exciting pre-Conference gathering. Also, did I mention baby goats?
Convention 2020 will be held in Baltimore, March 22-25, 2020. CCAR members can register here for Convention and for the Pearlstone Center Pre-Convention program, which takes place Sunday, March 22.