Awakening the Divine: A Jewish Spirituality Retreat

Program Description

Awakening the Divine: A Pardes & Or HaLev Jewish Spirituality Retreat

We live in challenging times full of uncertainty. How do we continue to be our best selves in the midst of this challenge? How do we find a center of calm stability even in the midst of instability and confusion? How do we reconnect with our divine nature and essential joy and love so that we can most effectively be agents of transformation for ourselves, our communities, our societies and the world?

Our tradition is alas no stranger to instability, upheaval and threat and so can provide us with deep resources for clarity, openness and vitality at times of challenge. Combining prayer, mindfulness meditation, silence, text study, and other modes of Jewish spiritual practice, this retreat will introduce participants to the profound depths of Jewish spirituality and offer the possibility of finding clarity and presence in an ever-changing world and life-transforming meaning in the Jewish tradition.

Most of the retreat will be spent in silence, meditation, and yoga, including meditation instruction and questions and answers. There will also be daily teachings as well as text study and discussion, and additional spiritual practices that complement and support our meditation practice. Beginners and more advanced practitioners are welcome.

The retreat will take place in-person at Shepherd Spring Retreat Center (DC/Baltimore area).

Rabbi James Jacobson Maisels Ph.D. (Faculty) is the founder and executive director of Or HaLev: Center for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation ( He has been studying and teaching meditation and Jewish spirituality for more than twenty-five years. He received his Ph.D. in Jewish Studies from the University of Chicago and rabbinic ordination from Rabbi Daniel Landes, a past Rosh Yeshiva of Pardes. He was the founding Rosh Yeshiva of Romemu Yeshiva and has taught and innovated programs in Jewish thought, mysticism, spiritual practices and meditation at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies, Haifa University, Yeshivat Hadar and in a variety of settings around the world. He strives to integrate his study and practice and to help teach and live Judaism as a spiritual discipline.


Yael Shy (Faculty) is the Founder and CEO of Mindfulness Consulting, LLC, where she supports individuals and collectives uncover their inherent worth and capacity for deep joy. She is the author of the award-winning book, What Now? Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond (Parallax, 2017) and Adjunct Faculty at New York University and the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. She can be found at and @yaelshy1 on Instagram and would love to connect with you! 


Shira Abramowitz (Faculty) is a meditation teacher, social impact leader, and community-builder. She completed the Institute for Jewish Spirituality JMMTT teacher training program, and teaches meditation for various programs online and in-person. She is the founder and executive director of Summit Impact, a 501(c)(3) focused on activating the power of community for social good. And a co-founder of Up & Up Creative, an agency focused on program design, events, and social impact campaigns. Shira holds a bachelors in commerce from McGill University and a masters degree in Mind, Brain, and Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she focused on social cognitive neuroscience and adult group learning.  


Sarah Hurwitz (Faculty) is the author of Here All Along: Finding Meaning, Spirituality, and a Deeper Connection to Life – in Judaism (After Finally Choosing to Look There)a book about her experience rediscovering Judaism as an adult. From 2009 to 2017, she served as a White House speechwriter, first as a senior speechwriter for President Barack Obama and then as head speechwriter for First Lady Michelle Obama. Sarah is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and she has completed hospital chaplaincy training and the Jewish Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training (JMMTT) Program at the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.

We are so glad that you are going to join us on this powerful retreat experience. We believe in the spirit of generosity as an essential part of the practice. We also acknowledge that financial abilities differ for everyone and so we strive to make this retreat accessible to those who wish to participate, by offering different payment levels based on residence during the retreat.

Single Room – $2,799/person

Double Room – $1,3799/person

Triple Room – $899/person

Cabin – $699/person

Limited financial aid is available. For those requesting financial aid please fill out the Financial Aid Request Form.

I don’t think it is premature to say this: thanks for changing my life.

–Rose Mardi

Awakening the Divine was a deeply special opportunity to bridge two worlds I have straddled for years which I have known in my heart of hearts are beautifully connected – my contemplative/meditative practice within my Jewish spirituality. I have never felt so at home in both practices as I did in this space.

–Einat, 23
New York

I never knew that Judaism could be so much fun! This experience fed my soul and when I returned from the retreat, I found myself feeling deeply nourished. I felt my heart open up throughout the week of meditation and Hebrew chanting and the silence helped me fall in love with my Self. I am truly grateful for all of the beautiful souls that accompanied me on this journey into our own unique expression of the divine. I am especially grateful to our incredible teachers who seem to have endless compassion and kindness for everyone. I look forward to facing future challenges with some of the skills I have learned through this program.

–Elizabeth Koosed, 22
Brooklyn, NY.

the retreat dramatically expanded the range of mediums for which to connect spiritually. I have learned beautiful Jewish chants, a very effective meditation technique, and a lot about how to deal with difficult emotions. I have taken a lot of what I learned on the retreat and implemented it into my life, and I have definitely seen an improvement in term of interacting in the world more peacefully. The Jewish Meditation retreat was really fun, life-changing, and a truly invaluable experience.

–Ryan Snyder

The retreat will be held from January 2-7, 2023

Sample Schedule of a Typical Day

5:45 AM Wake up
6:15 AM Meditation
6:45 AM Shacharit / Morning Prayer Practice
8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM Sit & Instructions
9:45 AM Walk
10:00 AM Sit
10:45 AM Yoga
12:00 PM Sit + Group Meetings
12:45 PM Lunch
2:30 PM Talmud Torah (Torah Study)
4:00 PM Sit – Blessing
4:45 PM Walk / Minchah 
5:10 PM Sit + Q&A
6:10 PM Dinner (Silent)
7:15 PM Meditation Talk
8:00 PM Evening Program: Hitbodedut
9:15 PM Return to Silence / Sit / Ma’ariv
9:30 PM Bedtime


Our buildings (Dining Hall and meditation hall) have HVAs with high quality air filters and very good air exchange. When using classrooms and other program areas we will also have fans. 

Given the ongoing Covid crisis, we are constantly reviewing our Covid policy to best protect those attending our retreat. We are grateful for your patience and flexibility as we continue to adapt to the ever-changing pandemic. Below is a description of our Covid policy at this time, including prevention measures and on-site response to a possible Covid infection.

But please note: Given the dynamic nature of Covid, all of these policies are subject to change and we may add additional testing and masking requirements.

We understand that conversations around Covid-19 can hold a lot of intensity and emotion for many of us. We understand that people have varied medical needs and risk tolerances. We offer this protocol with great sensitivity and care.

Summary of policy:
Everyone will be required to be up to date on their Covid vaccine per CDC guidelines and test negative on a rapid test on the morning of Tuesday, January 10th before they arrive. Depending on Covid rates in January we may require indoor masking in certain places, and masks are encouraged when sitting in close proximity to other participants.

By Thursday, December 29: Full refund minus a $50 fee.

On or after January 1: No refunds. We will consider refund requests on a case-by-case basis depending on our ability to be refunded by the retreat center.  Refunds are not possible in principle after January 1st when we have committed to the retreat center.