Another guest group has joined the SPC/CLT family! Starting with a connection through CLT Jewish Cohort member Kathy Orchen, and bolstered by our dear friends Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rabbi Phyllis Berman, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal or “ALEPH” chose to hold two weeks of programming at Stony Point Center this summer: the first called Smicha Week; and the second, Ruach Ha'Aretz (meaning “Spirit of the Earth”). In their wake they are leaving several beautiful pieces of public art, a kashered kitchen, and raised expectations.
To prepare for ALEPH’s visit, we undertook for the first time the process of "kashering" - making the kitchen kosher by following the Jewish dietary laws. ALEPH extended the opportunity for CLT members and Summer Institute students to participate in several of their class sessions, as well as in the chanting and Shabbat ceremonies. The space was literally bursting with the colors and creativity of ALEPH’s sacred art and liturgical decorations, which SPC staff worked hard to help arrange, and to which every person on campus was blessed to treat their eyes. Finally, artist and Ruach Ha’Aretz staff member Sandy Pond (pictured) donated her time to paint a series of decorative murals on each of the lodges, depicting the trees for which they are named: Maple, Beech, Walnut, Magnolia.
Kashering our kitchen was a major undertaking, which was both challenging and galvanizing fo the community. Our Food Service Manager, Donna Costa, learned all she could about the requirements of kashering the kitchen and the religious reasoning behind the rules. Our community and staff supported the effort by agreeing to adhere to the strict policy around food and participating in only a dairy kosher kitchen serving vegetarian fare and fish during their time here. Many staff members joined in the massive effort to clean all surfaces and items in our kitchen under the direction of Rabbis Victor Gross and Channah Leslie.
The project was born out of necessity: Kashering the kitchen was a must-have for ALEPH because of the duration of their event, the size of the group and the exclusive contract. “For years we thought we could never really pull off kashering our kitchen,” said Costa. “But thanks to an amazing team effort across all departments, including the CLT community, we tested our limits and succeeded!”
“The amount of energy people put into it truly touched me,” said DeDe Adika, a member of the Jewish Cohort of the Community of Living Traditions. “A Presbyterian conference center with a kashered kitchen… it’s really a small miracle!”
ALEPH’s leadership and participants were so grateful for the project and the gesture it represented. Rabbi Victor Gross, who supervised the process said: “From the moment we asked about kashering the kitchen, the Stony Point Center’s commitment to and capacity for radical hospitality became fully visible. The Stony Point staff and community embraced our needs with such grace and willingness, engendering trust in the outcome. From the doing to maintaining to understanding, the Stony Point community and ALEPH/Ruach Ha’Aretz efforts were exemplary.”
ALEPH has also extended special energy to give something back to SPC as an indicator of the meaningfulness of their time here. Artist and Ruach Ha’Aretz staff member Sandy Pond reached out to SPC Co-Director Kitty Ufford-Chase to ask if there was some way the group could participate in an art project that would ‘leave a mark’ on our campus. After some conversation, they settled on a small mural painted on the front of each of our guest lodges, depicting leaves and blossoms that represent the name of each lodge: Maple, Beech, Walnut, Magnolia. “Not only are these little bursts of color just beautiful,” said Ufford-Chase, “but they will assist guests in finding the lodge they are assigned to. I shared with Sandy how deeply moved I am by the talent, skill and love she poured into the murals.”
“The exchange of energy that has flowed through these projects has impacted our lives and our campus in ways that will bear fruit for years to come.” said General Manager Paula Sandusky. “Managing a complex event where 200 people come and go over a two week period and classes are held in nearly a dozen meeting spaces has its logistical challenges for sure! My experience with ALEPH’s leadership and participants reminds me that trust in relationships empowers us to overcome obstacles, understand and allow for differences, and open up to the possibility of deeper sharing. Our campus, staff and resident volunteers are changed by each guest group, and we are especially grateful to ALEPH/Ruach Ha’Aretz for the ways in which they have impacted us with the compassion they bring to the world.”