Friday, December 25, 2009

2 Important places: Kibbutz Hannaton and Beit Midrash Nava Tehilla

So many things I want to write about before I leave Israel next week, while they are still fresh on my mind.
The first: Kibbutz Hannaton. Kibbutz Hannaton is very difficult to find on the web - hopefully they will change that soon (right Yoav?) - but here are a couple of links: 
and Hannaton Educational Center, ( a good mini movie with pictures), 
and lastly there is a link through the Masorti movement .

Kibbutz Hannaton was founded in 1983-4 by members of the Conservative movement. It has undergone many ups and downs since then and today is on an upswing. Hannaton is growing with new members joining all the time,  land is soon to be prepared for new houses to be built, a second gan was recently opened for the kibbutz and neighboring children and there is a wonderful mikveh on the property (more about that in a minute). In this new renaissance, it is becoming an educational center with an inviting guesthouse, good food and welcoming kibbutz members.

Here is a description written by James and Debbie Maisels about the vision of the educational center: 
Kibbutz Hannaton is a renewed community and educational center, in a beautiful setting in the Galilee, where diverse, committed young Jews are working to claim Israel's future by living and teaching the ideals of Pluralism, Spirituality, Social Justice, Environmentalism, and Peace and Reconciliation, all in the context of rigorous text study. Our programs will include full time beit midrash study, spiritual retreats, seminars, and internships which engage our core values. Along with a group of passionate rabbis and educators from multiple denominations, our goal is to engage contemporary Jews with a meaningful, open, ethical and transformative Judaism.

I first heard about Hannaton in the early 80s when it first started but it didn't enter my consciousness again until this September when I participated in a retreat for the month of Elul on Teshuva and Transformation. It truly was transforming for me on many different levels. I engaged in deep and exciting learning on the teshuva process with wonderful teachers such as Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels (teaches at Pardes), Debbie Jacobson-Maisels (man, can this woman sing!),  Rabbi Ruth Gan Kagan of Nava Tehilla (my honored Hassidut teacher), and Rabbi Haviva Ner David (my honored teacher of women's halachic issues) among others. I found a place in Israel that I feel I could live in if I were ever to move to Israel and I met two women who would become very important teachers for me - Rabbi Ruth and Rabbi Haviva. 

In meeting Rabbi Ruth I learned about the Nava Tehilla Beit Midrash - a weekly learning session from 3pm - 10pm on Tuesday evenings in Jerusalem. Here I studied Kabbala with the awesome and inspiring Avraham Leader (see my post on Words from a few weeks ago) and Hassidut and the prayer Ana B'Koach with Ruth.  Although I have been traveling for the past several years in a more liberal and spiritual Jewish world, I have leaned toward the more pragmatic sides of Judaism (for example - even with his drawbacks, I really dig Maimonides!) - but the learning that I've done at Nava Tehilla has enabled me to open myself to many new experiences. I even liked some of them! One result - I meditate now more than I ever did - there is a great one for before bed where it's like you are flying - too cool...

In meeting Rabbi Haviva Ner David I found someone who could not only satisfy my desire to learn the halachic underpinnings of Niddah and Mikveh (various issues of the Family Purity laws) but could also help me transvalue them to become meaningful in the post halachic world I live in. I will always be grateful for that. In addition, Haviva runs the Mikveh at Hannaton which is a place where nonOrthodox people can go and experience mikveh in ways other than just for family purity.  Haviva is willing to talk to people about mikveh and help develop ceremonies for lifecycle and other life shaping events. Most importantly to me, she has become my friend and for that I will always be grateful.

While this is not the best-written blog entry I've ever written I do hope you see my points. I haven't been sleeping much lately, so much to do and experience and celebrate and mourn in my last weeks (now days!) in Israel. I'll be posting more soon.

Shabbat Shalom - Arlene


  1. Hi Arlene,
    I'm a graduate of RRC, now living in New Mexico but but rabbinate takes me all over the world. Recently I've been emailing with the folks at Hannaton about leading a meditation retreat there.
    I googled ad came upon your post... so I was wondering if you would recommend it as a place to lead retreats. Good to meet you.

    Shefa Gold

  2. Hi Shefa. I would definitely recommend Hannaton as a place to lead retreats. The facilities are nice, grounds are lovely, the place is clean, food is good, people are friendly and hospitable... has just about all you could ask for. I believe we have a relative in common - Erica Steelman. Actually - she's an actual relative of yours and a distant by marriage one of mine - but we are close friends and hevruta at RRC so we cal each other cousin - works for me!
    kol tuv - Arlene