As people shoosh down the California mountains, one group will be getting more than just snow: Torah.
The Jewish Studies Institute held its first winter retreat at Big Bear this week, with 85 people (about 16 families) enjoying the slopes, kosher food, daily minyans and lectures on spirituality.
"Recreate yourself in a spiritual mountain setting," the promo for the Jan. 28-31 trip promised. The seminar's theme -- The Holistic Torah Jew -- investigates the integration between Torah and leading a diverse life.
"Has traditional Judaism become too black and white?" asked Rabbi Ari Hier, the institute's director and head of the retreat. Hier used the movie "Pleasantville," along with sources from the Talmud, to discuss how hobbies such as skiing can be a healthy, religious thing.
Rabbi Gerry "Wild West" Werner also presented a lecture on holistic Judaism, and a musical performance from the Simcha band closed the program on Wednesday night at Northwoods Resort.
Held during many Jewish schools' winter break, more than 100 people were turned away from the retreat due to lack of space. Hier hopes to continue the program. "Skiing and being up in the snow is a very expansive experience; it takes them out of the black and white experience," Hier said. "I hope that people get a sense of community." -- Staff Report