L’Shem Kedushat: Demystifying Jewish Sacred Arts Retreat


*Application Now Live and open until 11:59PM EST February 12th*

L’Shem Kedushat*: Demystifying Jewish Sacred Arts, May 16 - 19, 2024 

Woolman Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Deerfield, Massachusetts

*the intention recited when beginning to make klaf (parchment) includes the phrase, “L’Shem Kedushat” (for the sanctity of).

Retreat Description

30 participants will spend four days learning hands-on skills from Jewish educators on the margins, who have worked hard to learn about the production of Jewish ritual objects. These teachers are eager to transfer their knowledge to a new cohort of artisans.

This gathering builds on the ground-breaking efforts of a first generation of historically excluded parchment-makers (and scribes), begun in the early 2000’s. Our goal is to support the next generation of makers to ensure the future of diasporic sacred arts is inclusive of those of us on the fringes and continues the long-standing Jewish tradition of crafting our ritual objects. Together, we will learn the first steps of making klaf (parchment) used for STaM (Sifrei Torah, Tefillin, Mezuzot), and shofarot, all of which are derived from animals. We will center diasporic production, land and animal welfare, and explore ethical alternatives to the current harmful supply chain. Throughout the weekend, we will participate in hands-on demonstrations, hear talks, listen to sacred stories, and get the chance to practice some of these skills while building relationships and connections. Educators and ritualists leading us include Rabbi Linda Motzkin, Yonathan Reches, Aravah Berman-Mirkin, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, and others.                    

Our Vision

This retreat is in service to our larger vision of creating a guild of Jewish artisans located within the North American diaspora. This guild would include manufacturing and ongoing training in the creation of kosher klaf, tefillin and shofarot. Our values center on animal rights, and prioritize teaching individuals who typically would not have access to these skills including women, LGBTQ+ and disabled people. Given that there is no centralized place to learn these skills in North America, collaboration and creativity are essential for the longevity of this work. We envision a future where the origins of these ritual objects (animal hides and horns) are fully transparent, and the producers of these items are cherished and known in their communities. We dream of a guild of artisans producing objects rooted in relationships – between the fair treatment of animals, land, and the humans who tend them. 

We pay homage to those we know who have helped pave the way for this retreat to be possible: Rabbi Linda Motzkin, Shoshana Guggenheim Kedem, Yonathan Reches, Shamu Sadeh, Adamah Farm Fellows including Simcha Halpert-Hansen and Soreh Ruffman, STaM Scribes, our ancestors who kept the chain unbroken, and those who we have yet to learn about.

*This retreat is organized by Ollie Schwartz and Aravah Berman-Mirkin who are both Jewish queer, trans, disabled artists and cultural workers who want these skills for themselves and our communities.*

~ Dates ~

Thursday May 16 - Sunday May 19, 2024

This retreat begins at 5pm Thursday and ends at 12pm on Sunday. All applicants must be able to stay for the entire retreat.

~ Application process~

Space is limited! Please fill out this form by *Feb 12th* to let us know what's calling you to this retreat. We will be in touch by *March 1* at the latest to let you know if there is a spot for you.

A note on applicant selection. We are invested in resourcing Jewish artisans and cultural workers on the fringes throughout North America. We are looking for applicants who:
  • are interested in building the necessary relationships and skills to eventually produce animal-derived ritual objects (parchment, tefillin, shofarot) for diasporic communities utilizing conscious sourcing of animal hides and horns. If this is something you think you would like to pursue and want mentorship, this is the retreat for you. You do not have to already be involved in building these skills but we are carrying the intention of building a network of artisans who want to pursue these skills.
  • often cannot access mentorship and support, such as queer, trans, disabled, and JOCISM (Jews of Color, Indigenous, Sephardi, Mizrahi). 

This will be a multi-generational gathering and we invite adults of all ages to apply.

    We are invested in resourcing Jewish artisans and cultural workers on the fringes throughout North America

    ~ Accommodations ~

    We have rented out the beautiful Woolman Hill Retreat Center in a rural area that has a variety of sleeping accommodations. This location is only accessible by car, bring what you need!

    ~ Meals ~

    Kosher-style* meals and snacks will be provided throughout the duration of the retreat and be served buffet style. There will be vegan and meat options available. Sourcing will be local when possible. We will only be able to accommodate the following allergens: gluten free, dairy free, and nut allergies.
    *Food is not certified kosher, there will be no meat and milk in the same meal, no food will be cooked on shabbat, no pork and shellfish will be served. If you have questions about this, please make a note in your application.
    ~ Accessibility ~

    This gathering is wheelchair accessible, covid safer and scent free. All meals and all but one workshop will be held outdoors under a tent. We will require masking during the one indoor workshop. Masking indoors in the retreat center common spaces is optional. Rapid PCR tests will be provided upon arrival.

    ~ Pluralistic Judaism ~

    This retreat will be bringing together a multi-generational group of teachers and students from different levels of Jewish observance, relationships to the state of Israel, and Jewish cultures / experiences. We are committed to making this a respectful and pluralistic space. As such, we will serve kosher-style food and our shabbat meals will be prepared ahead of time. Accessible and creative services will be held for Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat Shacharit, Torah Service and Havdallah. There will be no melacha (prohibited activities) on Shabbat.

    ~ Animal Processing ~

    We will be working directly with deer hides sourced from hunters in the Hudson Valley and Saratoga Springs Regions of New York. As a participatory event, these hands-on demos will include fleshing hides (removing the flesh), dehairing hides, amongst other activities. We will provide all necessary safety equipment and demos for participants to keep safe. We want to make sure participants understand that we will be working directly with raw hides and horns in order to learn these skills. We will not be slaughtering animals at this retreat. 

    ~ Cost ~

    There will be approximately 30 people at this retreat including educators. Sliding scale tuition covers lodging, all kosher-style meals and snacks, rapid PCR testing, safety gear for workshops, and compensating those leading. We have a limited number of spots available at reduced rates. 

    • $500 = subsidized - 3 spots available
    • $750 = subsidized - 3 spots available
    • $1,000 = true cost per person
    • $1,250 = pay it forward  (this helps us subsidize lower costs spots)
    • $1,500 = pay it forward  (this helps us subsidize lower costs spots)
    A Note on Cost
    We have worked hard to subsidize this retreat through grants, individual donor asks, and event fundraisers to make this offering accessible. One third of the true cost for the retreat has been subsidized by these efforts. These costs reflect the ethical sourcing and compensation to our educators, organizers, ritual leaders and chefs. 

    7% of tuition fees will be donated to Native queer hide training, Niizh Manidook Hide Camp in Southern Ontario.


    ~ Lead Educators ~

    Rabbi Linda Motzkin is one of a handful of women in the world trained as a soferet (scribe) and the only one who is making her own parchment for the Torah scroll she is writing. She founded the Community Torah Project, a long-term educational endeavor to produce a Torah scroll involving the hands-on participation of people of all ages. Through her teaching programs, she has brought the process of making a Torah scroll to Jewish communities across the country and internationally, enabling individuals of all ages and abilities to participate in various steps in the making of a Torah scroll, such as processing deerskins donated from local hunters into parchment panels, proofreading letters on completed panels, and stitching fully proofread panels together. Rabbi Motzkin recently retired from her position of co-rabbi of Temple Sinai in Saratoga Springs, New York after 36½ years of job-sharing with her husband Rabbi Jonathan Rubenstein. https://breadandtorah.org/ 

    Linda will be leading a two part Parchment-Making Intensive (combo hands-on and demo) and Exploring Torah as a Ritual Object.


    Yonathan Reches is a hide worker and scribe working out of Norman, Oklahoma. In 2022, his search for vegetarian-compatible tefillin and mezuzot led him to start collecting roadkill for parchment and batim. He is passionate about the egal community's spiritual self-sufficiency in the realm of kedusha, and he is working to reverse-engineer skills that have traditionally been known only to Orthodox craftsman, such as making batim and spinning sinew thread. With a background in materials science and civil engineering (and a day job in program management), Yonathan has scoured the internet for information about these arts, recently completing the first-ever pair of egalitarian-made tefillin. He works with Ot Tikkun, a collective of part-time hide workers and scribes, in order to create humane, egalitarian kedusha and to involve the Jewish community of Central Oklahoma in maintaining its Torah scrolls. https://www.thekedushaproject.org/

     Yonathan will be leading a hands-on Gid (Sinew) Spinning Workshop and a Tefillin Making Show and Tell Class.

    ~ Ritualists + Educators ~

    Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb is one of the first women to become a rabbi in Jewish history, is a pioneer Jewish feminist, human rights activist, writer, visual artist, ceremonialist, community educator and master storyteller. Lynn has been a congregational rabbi since the fall of 1973, and founded the Congregation Nahalat Shalom in Albuquerque, NM, in 1980. Lynn engages in multifaith, intergenerational and multicultural organizing in solidarity with racial, indigenous, gender justice and Palestinian liberation struggles. Currently, Lynn sits on the Rabbinic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace and is board chair of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and is the author of several books. www.rabbilynngottlieb.com

    + more to come!


    ~ Retreat Organizers ~

    Ollie Emmes Schwartz (no pronouns) lives with the quiet and the queers in the rural hilltowns of Western, Massachusetts on unceded Nipmuk and Pocumtuck lands. Ollie is the founder of Pushcart Judaica. A project whose mission is to make accessible Jewish craftways and ritual items that reflect liberatory values and uplift Jews on the fringes. https://pushcartjudaica.com/


    Aravah Berman-Mirkin (they/them) is a gleaner and artist with over 20 years of experience creating functional 3D art in an array of materials, much of which is foraged or sourced locally. They trained as an architect at the School of Architecture at the Cooper Union, after which they studied agriculture through the apprenticeship model in the Hudson River Valley of New York. Aravah co-founded and currently runs Long Table Harvest, an organization that gleans and distributes surplus food from farms. Since 2019, Aravah has focused their creative practice on the production of a wide range of judaica for Jews in the diaspora, including shofarot, and is one of the only people in North America producing them for sale. Their immediate family roots are in the former Soviet Union (Ukraine) which has deeply shaped and informed their creative practice and relationship to Judaism. https://www.zhydovka.me/

    Aravah will be leading an in depth Shofar Show and Tell demonstration.


    ~ Draft Schedule ~

    Thursday 5/16






    Opening + Welcome Ceremony


    Workshop 1 - Shofar Show and Tell with Aravah Berman-Mirkin

    Friday 5/17




    Workshop 2 - Klaf (Parchment) Intensive Pt. 1 with R’ Linda Motzkin


    Lunch / Rest


    Workshop 3 - Gid (Sinew) Spinning with Yonathan Reches


    Workshop/Class TBD


    Shabbat Prep


    Kabbalat Shabbat + Omer Counting



    Saturday 5/18






    Torah portion: Emor


    Storytelling with R' Lynn Gottlieb 






    Exploring Torah as a Ritual Object with R' Linda Motzkin


    Ethics / Halacha Panel






    Havdalah + Omer Counting


    Workshop 4 - Tefillin Show and Tell with Yonathan Reches

    10:30 - ?


    Sunday 5/19




    Workshop 5 - Klaf Intensive Pt. 2 with R’ Linda Motzkin


    Next steps / Closing





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    Introduction to Demystifying Jewish Sacred Arts ~ A Virtual Salon

    Thursday, Jan 18, 5-6 PST/ 8-9 EST 

    Suggested donation: $5-$36 

    Join ​Pushcart Judaica and Aravah Berman-Mirkin for a virtual salon to learn more about the current industry of klaf (parchment) used for STaM (Sefer Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzot) and shofar production, and why we are invested in an alternative movement rooted in the diaspora for the creation of these sacred ritual objects. The salon will include an overview of the current status of the production of these judaica, special guest Yonathan Reches will share about his experience reverse engineering kosher vegetarian tefillin, include details about our upcoming retreat: L’Shem Kedushat: Demystifying Jewish Sacred Arts, and end with a Q + A.​ 

    *We will be recording this event. If you are unable to make it, we will send it out afterwards*

    This event will raise funds to support subsidizing tuition for L’Shem Kedushat: Demystifying Jewish Sacred Arts Retreat May 16-19, 2024 in Deerfield, MA.