Jewish@edu – Building Community
HCAM retreat focuses on leadership and learning.
On Jan. 26, 30 Jewish students from the Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan (HCAM) stumbled upon a quaint bed and breakfast in Alto, Mich. OK, so we didn’t exactly stumble upon it and it wasn’t exactly quaint; rather, it was a house with many hidden rooms for discovery during break times, great acoustics for listening to each other’s secrets and only two bathrooms.
While the excitement and anticipation of getting to know people we already had so much in common with was taking over, warmth filled the lake house with the smell of sweet challah and the flicker of candlelight.
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Dialogue was the center of this retreat. While there were technically two separate cohorts (leadership and learning), it became apparent that people left their cohorts excited and intrigued.
Discussion was always fruitful, encompassing both new knowledge and previous experiences. Topics ranged from what it means to be a Jew to how to be a better leader in your community to how to make Shabbat your Shabbat and how to facilitate tough conversations.
One activity that captivated our minds was when we participated in a mock dialogue facilitation. During this process, an HCAM leader initiated a conversation surrounding adversity and positivity, and walked us through how we could do so as well. Through this experience, students were able to be part of both sides of a facilitated conversation — the facilitator and the participant.
We also explored the game Hot Seat, which was a hit. This activity was created to help us advise, encourage and stand by other Hillel members. We were able to give each other feedback and see the adversities other Hillels faced. Hot Seat allowed one person to present his conflict without interruption and then provided time for feedback, clarifying statements and conclusions.
Through Hot Seat, we were able to establish a sense of community through support and guidance, unlike anything we had experienced before.
In retrospect, the impact this retreat had on us was unanticipated. In fact, at the time, we were too busy filling up on cheese balls and gooey pizza, feeling sleep-deprived and stressing about homework to even think about what we were actually doing.
We were building a community.
One thing all the Hillel organizations in Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan have in common is that we are all small — but mighty.
While we have our tight-knit cohorts, it felt reassuring to know there were others of us out there. Whether you were leading or learning (or simply there for the snacks), you were building something much bigger than you could ever realize. @
Maya Gurfinkel of Ann Arbor is a sophomore at Kalamazoo College. Abigail Calef of Ann Arbor is a junior at Kalamazoo College.
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