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Russian-Speaking Bima and Genesis Alumni reunite at the 2nd annual BGI Retreat
The second annual Brandeis Genesis Institute (BGI) Alumni retreat took place on the weekend of December 2nd-4th in the serene and environmentally friendly setting of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut. Nineteen high school students, who attended 2010 and 2011 BIMA and Genesis summer programs at Brandeis University, came together from across the United States and Canada for a weekend of community building and Jewish learning.
The retreat started with ice-breaker activities to introduce new and refresh existing acquaintances. Participants learned about each others recent achievements and news: World Science competitions, dinners with President Obama, new cars, new responsibilities, universities admissions, impending music record deals, and much more. Then, the group participated in a competitive scavenger hunt to discover the group’s linguistic, cultural, and travel histories, preferences, and interests. The activity concluded with poetry reading and storytelling.
After bonding over a kosher, organic dinner, the participants spent some on catch up on old friendships. As the evening progressed, participants gathered to explore their groups’ Jewish roots and connections. They watched a segment from the movie “Everything is illuminated” and then shared mementos that linked them to their Jewish roots, including their family photos, family heirloom and favorite books.
Saturday morning was dedicated to exploring Jewish history and tradition through theater and acting exercises. After lunch there was an impromptu hike to scale an overlook trail of the Mt. Barrack to admire Connecticut Berkshires’ landscape. In the afternoon, the participants engaged in a rigorous discussion on the many ways of being Jewish and maintaining Jewish identity in the modern world. During the evening, participants were challenged in an intellectual competition / game with puzzles rooted in Jewish history, traditions, and lateral thinking exercises.
On Sunday, after a reflection on the weekend’s experiences and tearful goodbyes between old and new friends, the participants departed and headed home.
This was a great weekend filled with fun activities, bonding, and terrific educational opportunities. Interesting and tough questions were aired and discussed and a greater sense of community and connectedness permeated the group!