Shocking News: Immersion in Jewish Spirituality Retreat Actually Helps Rabbis be Better Servants of the Jewish people and God


Lizzi Heydemann is the Founder of Mishkan Chicago, an inspired, down-to-earth spiritual community in Chicago whose mission is to engage, educate, empower and inspire people in Chicago through dynamic experiences of Jewish prayer, music, learning and community building.

One of the great challenges of being a single young adult and a rabbi is that the place where many Jewish young adults look for social community and intellectual/spiritual stimulation is the Jewish community (what I spend my days creating). What rabbis often describe as being one of the bedrocks of their sanity—their spouses and families—doesn't really apply to me as a single person, and I find myself looking for community and social stimulation on nights and weekends after and outside of work. It can be exhausting.

I am an extrovert and am constantly connecting with people, which is part of my mission as a human being, an entrepreneur and a rabbi. The downside of what I'm describing is that I rarely find myself alone and with time to meditate, do yoga, read, and feed my head and spirit in the way that I need a) to keep doing the job I'm doing in an informed way, with professional growth as a consistent part of my life, and b) because I'm at pretty high risk for burn-out - something I already feel in my day-to-day life.

The Institute for Jewish Spirituality's Clergy Leadership Institute for rabbis and cantors is designed to create retreats and daily spiritual practices to help bolster and support clergy so that we can do our jobs, stay focused, stay grounded, keep our learning and living sustainable, do what we need to do out in the world, and find sustenance and support from meditation and from studying Chassidut. Chassidut is the Jewish tradition's most potent and direct source of generating mystical consciousness - in other words, the ability to be radically amazed by the world, to see, touch, smell, hear and feel its beauty and light, and to encourage those around us to do the same. To live this way is to avoid the productivity trap that leads us to believe that the more we get done, the happier we are. The more e-mails we respond to, the more morally superior people we are.

So, the summer retreat at the Rye Hilton was a breath of much-needed fresh air. It combined yoga, niggun singing, prayer, study, and mindful eating, walking and sitting (otherwise known as meditating). It was so helpful toward my goal of trying to just hold all the tassels of life together and be of unified mind and body. I am reaping the fruits of this retreat every day and am so grateful for the opportunity to learn so that I can teach, and to study so that I can spread the light of God and Torah to Jews and anyone else who wants to listen.