New Field-Building Initiative Launches for Jewish Retreating
Learning while on retreat

New Field-Building Initiative Launches for Jewish Retreating

Pearlstone, an agency of The Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, and one of the largest Jewish retreat centers in North America, announced today that it is leading a groundbreaking national initiative elevating the field of Jewish retreating, aptly named Retreat Jewish.

Bonding while on retreat

Operators of Jewish retreat centers and retreat organizers will meet to share best practices and identify critical needs. The goals are: (1) to expand and professionalize the field; (2) to maximize resources available for immersive learning; (3) to create sustainable operating models; and (4) to provide abundant and effective immersion opportunities to meet community needs. Josh Fidler, the founding Chair of Pearlstone and respected leader in numerous Jewish organizations, has long advocated for this type of dedicated infrastructure and support. “Retreating is among the most effective and least resourced tools in the Jewish community,” he shares. “We hope to make a difference in both areas.”

Significant investments from the Jim Joseph Foundation and The Marcus Foundation reflect the growing consensus, across the Jewish world, that immersive retreats are powerful catalysts for transformative Jewish educational and community-building impact. “For many decades, Jewish education organizations have utilized short-term overnight retreats as an effective modality to engage learners of all ages, and provide professional development to leaders and educators,” says Josh Miller, Chief Program Officer at the Jim Joseph Foundation. “We are pleased to be partnering with Pearlstone, Immersive1st Consulting, and our colleagues at The Marcus Foundation on this new initiative to support the professional development of retreat center operators and raise the profile of Jewish retreating.”

This launch builds upon years of foundational efforts in building up the field, including an extensive landscape study published in 2020 that assessed the challenges and opportunities within the sector. Advancing Jewish Retreating, undertaken by Amy L. Sales and Nicole Samuel of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, made a compelling case for investment to support capacity building and ongoing research. David Phillips, a leader and pioneer of Jewish Retreating, underscores the importance of this new initiative, adding “the data from this report and a prior landscape study exposed a need for a unified strategy to engage stakeholders, while elevating the power and potential of Jewish retreating.”


Celebrating while on retreat

An intensive professional cohort for Jewish retreat center operators will offer peer-to-peer support, education on a hospitality model based in Jewish values, and grants for marketing to attract more Jewish retreat organizers. In a joint statement, the Retreat Jewish leadership team shares: “With universal demand for capacity building, infrastructure, and research, Retreat Jewish offers a blueprint for building a framework of support and collaboration to establish the foundation for a brighter future. Now is the time for transformational change, strengthening the fabric among all those with a commitment to Jewish retreating.” Pearlstone is lending organizational capacity, hospitality expertise, and a successful track record as both an operator and organizer. The Retreat Jewish leadership team includes:
o Jakir Manela, CEO of Pearlstone & Hazon brings over 10 years of experience leading Pearlstone and almost 20 years as a Jewish experiential educator and creator of immersive Jewish experiences.
o Eve Wachhaus, COO of Pearlstone & Hazon and active liaison to multifaith and multicultural retreat center collaborations beyond the Jewish world, has enjoyed a 30+ year career in nonprofit and hospitality fields.
o David Phillips, consultant to Retreat Jewish and Principal at Immersive1st Consulting, is devoted to a vibrant and vital Jewish community with decades of experience supporting organizations in the immersive sector.
o Rachel Feldman, Senior Retreat Project Director, has overseen multiple areas of hospitality in her 9 years at Pearlstone including guest services, sales, marketing, and financial resource development.

More information, including details about two cohort groups for 16 retreat centers launching later this year, is available at or contact Rachel Feldman

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PEARLSTONE & HAZON: The organizations are undergoing a merger, expected Fall 2022. The shared mission is to lead a transformative movement weaving sustainability into the fabric of Jewish life, in order to create a healthier, more sustainable and more equitable world for all.
THE ASSOCIATED: JEWISH COMMUNITY FEDERATION OF BALTIMORE strengthens and nurtures Jewish life by engaging and supporting community players in Greater Baltimore, Israel and around the world.
THE MARCUS FOUNDATION: the private Atlanta-based foundation of Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot, directs philanthropic support towards health and human services for children and veterans, Jewish causes, medical research, free enterprise, and community.
THE JIM JOSEPH FOUNDATION aspires to foster Jewish learning experiences which inspired all Jews, their families and their friends lead connected, meaningful, purpose-filled lives and make positive contributions to their communities and the world.
IMMERSIVE1ST is a consulting firm that specializes in nonprofit management support, fundraising, planning and program development.
ADVANCING JEWISH RETREATING (2020) by Amy L. Sales and Nicole Samuel of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, examines how retreating has been adopted by a vast array of organizations, what issues facilitate or impede their efforts, and what current levels of activity portend for the future of Jewish retreating.

About Becky O'Brien

Hazon is America's largest Jewish environmental organization. We create healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond. Hazon in Colorado is led by Becky O'Brien, Boulder Director and Sarah Kornhauser, Denver Director.

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