A Reflection on the Spring 2015 Jewish Life Retreat

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Staring out of the bus window, I noticed two people walking towards me. I flashed back to the first image I had of them. It was three-and-a-half years ago at a Shabbat service during my first week as a student at Georgetown. They became some of my first friends on campus. They were two people who, like me, desired to connect with the Jewish community of a Jesuit school, for it could serve as an immediate sense of acceptance, belonging, and satisfaction amidst the hectic transition from high school to college. They were two people with whom I attended a Jewish retreat to an old colonial home in the Washington exurbs during my freshman year. Only twelve of us attended, showing that while the Jewish community at the time was close-knit, it was admittedly small and had much room to grow.

Now, fast-forward three-and-a-half years later. Where was this bus going? It seemed all too familiar. Again, we were off to a Jewish retreat outside of the Washington exurbs. Again, here I was with two of my first friends on campus. What a way to come full-circle….

There were, however, some notable differences this time around – differences that, I think, evidence the strong, positive transformations I’ve made not only in my own life, but also 16148377850_e05c226198_kwithin the Georgetown Jewish community. Thirty-one eager freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors piled on the bus for this retreat, to be held at the beautiful Calcagnini Contemplative Center (new window) in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The scenery was breathtakingly reminiscent of a certain John Denver song and was a far departure from the colonial home that served as the setting for my first retreat. While that location was nice, it certainly didn’t portray Georgetown’s palpable commitment to cultivating healthy and engaging religious life on and off campus like the Calcagnini Center does.

The retreat immediately proved its worth. In 25 short hours, the thirty one of us (photographed above) experienced relaxation, renewal, unity, and diversity all at once. We quickly came to realize that the state of Jewish life (new window) at Georgetown is strong and has certainly come a long way from that first Shabbat evening my freshman year. It’s not quite something I can adequately articulate here, but I’m excited to continue to make a positive impression on it, as well as reap the personal benefits from it, over the course of my last semester in this amazing place.

Matthew Caplan, NHS ’15