Frequently Asked Questions
July 4th, Simchat Torah, Etc
What you should bring, and more information than you ever really wanted to know...Let us know if anything has been missed of substance….
Please bring your own chumash/machsor/siddur for the weekend.
Also, we run these events at a lower cost by having everyone help out during the event. You will each be assigned duties during your stay. Folks have often told me that is one of the best parts of the weekend (really!) as they often bond well with the folks that they are on duty with...
BASICS FOR THE WEEKEND
WHATS THE ADDRESS AND PHONE NUMBER OF THIS PLACE?
The address and phone of the Retreat Center are:
Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center
The nearest town is Canaan, CT, a few miles down the road, and Hartford is 40 miles away.
HOW FAR IS THE PLACE? WHEN SHOULD I LEAVE?
The Retreat Center is about 100 miles from Manhattan and 20 miles from Great Barrington, MA the southern part of the Berkshires, in the Connecticut Berkshires, but you are on smaller roads, so don’t think you can do get there in under 2 hrs from anywhere safely. Its about 20 minutes closer than the Shaker Mill many of you know, near the MA border.
Here is how long it takes from various locations, without traffic
a) Midtown, Upper West Side, North Jersey, Riverdale, Monsey – 2 hrs to 2.5 hrs
b) Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, Queens, & Long Island - 2.5 hrs to 3.0 hours.
Candle Lighting is 8:13 PM on Friday July 4. We hope to make shabbat early around 7, so please plan on arriving no later than 6 PM.
To make sure you get there at a sensible time, not rushing and coming in 5 minutes before Shabbat, I recommend you leave at 1:30 PM from Mid and Upper Manhattan, Queens and Northern NJ, and 1:00 from Brooklyn, Long Island & Central NJ. YOU SHOULD NOT LEAVE LATER THAN 4:00 PM FROM ANY LOCATION. Also, the closer to 2PM that you arrive at Isabella Freedman, the more time you will have to use the wonderful facilities!
The traffic will only be at the beginning from my experience, ie getting to the Taconic, which is about 30 miles north of NYC. Since this is a midweek departure, you should not have any traffic. Once on the Taconic, traffic usually moves well, just not at superhighway speeds. See here for the directions, from the Isabella Freedman website.
HOW DO WE PAY FOR THE EVENT?
You may pay by paypal or check—please see all the details on the Rates, Deposits and Payments Page.
You must pay your deposit to complete your registration and your full payment must be sent before you come up to the weekend.
WHATS THE WEATHER LIKE? HOW COLD IS IT AT NIGHT?
Its too early to tell, though its usually about 5 - 10 degrees cooler at Isabella Freedman than in the NY area during the summer. This is why people like to come to the mountain areas like upper Connecticut in the summer! It can get chilly at night, so bring a sweater or other warm gear just in case! It could be in the mid 40s at night at this time of the year.
WHAT ARE THE ROOMS LIKE? DO I HAVE A KEY TO LOCK MY ROOM? SHOULD I BRING VALUABLES WITH ME? ARE THERE TV’S OR PHONES IN MY ROOM?
The rooms are all in decent condition. Some have been recently renovated, and even the basic rooms are fine rooms. Also, we are fairly secluded and none of the rooms lock with a key. As a general matter, I would not bring anything very valuable with you, which is a good rule for traveling. There are no tv’s or phones in the rooms.
DO CELL PHONES WORK THERE? DO THEY HAVE BROADBAND INTERNET/WIFI?
CELL PHONES - Verizon & AT&T work best in the Retreat Center but there are dead spots. Others may work also, just not as well as Verizon & AT&T.
The Retreat has wifi in the main building, and two pc’s in a computer room for public use and checking email and the Internet. Please be considerate and do not hog the PCs. Remember, you are on vacation!
WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING? HOW FORMAL DO I NEED TO DRESS?
We are fairly informal – suits are certainly optional, based on what you feel is appropriate for a Shabbat. Please bring clothing for Shabbat, a SIDDUR, CHUMASH, toiletries, and clothing for the days you are there besides shabbat, reading materials, any games you want to play up there, something for rain since it might rain at some point, and warm clothing. Also, a gemarah if we end up offering a daf yomi shiur ( the Daf will be in Mesechect Avodah Zara during the time we will be up there) as well as any clothing for the events you go to on Friday, Sunday or Monday.
DOES THE PLACE SUPPLY LINENS, TOWELS, ETC?
Yes, they supply bed linens (sheets, blankets), towels and a small bar of soap. You will need to bring anything else you would want to have. Its not a hotel, so they do not clean rooms while we are there. Also, make sure to rip toilet paper in your bathroom, for Shabbat. There may also be a box of Kleenex in the room.
DO YOU NEED HELP ON THE WEEKEND?
Yes, we do these events only with your help. During the weekend we may ask people to help out at various times, like cleaning the tables after we eat, etc. There is also need for additional helpers who will get reduced fees. Please see the main page, linked above. Also, let me know your interest on the RSVP Form. A few people who qualify and can help in advance will be able to get a reduced rate, and some may be able to get up to 50% off. We also need people to teach classes, teach arts and crafts, and other tasks. See the relevant sections of this FAQ for more information.
What specific helper roles for reduced rates do you have? How much can you get off as a helper?
Below I have a list of some of the specific roles that I am seeking help for, with the range for each role. If you can lend this type of assistance, fill out the RSVP form, indicate your interest, and we will be in touch if this meets our needs. We also need people to teach some classes, who will then get a reduced rate. See the next question for details. Thanks in advance for your help!
Helper Roles that could be as much as 50% off:
A) I am very computer savvy and can help a lot with various organizing and computer tasks like website updates, database management, google docs, lists/labels, etc in advance and a lot during the event
B) I computer proficient but not an expert - I can help a lot with computer tasks, and also with marketing, transportation (rides, trains, buses, etc) onsite and off-site activities and other general organizing tasks in advance of the weekend, and I am able to help out a lot during the event
C) I am computer savvy and I have substantial events planning and organizing experience and I can help arrange onsite and offsite activitiesactivities, transportation, marketing and can be of signigicant help in advance and during the event.
D) I am able to do all of the laining for the entire weekend ( Shemini Atseret, Simchat Torah & Shabbat Breishit)
Helper roles for $25 to $100 off
A) $25 to $50 helper - I am able to help in general during the event with various tasks.
B) $25 - $50 helper - I am planning to take the bus (if offered) and can serve as a bus monitor and help out during the weekend with various tasks.
C) $25 to $50 helper - I am very active and outdoorsy and able to lead or assist on hikes, bike rides, and sporting events at the event (volleyball, soccer,basketball, etc)
D) $25 to $75—I am able to give classes or teach a craft during the weekend. Amount of discount based on experience and class(es) offered.
D) $25 to $100 helper - I have child care experience and would be willing to run some child care events and perform baby and child sitting duties during the weekend. Amount of discount is based on how much we decide to use you for this help.
DO YOU NEED PEOPLE TO TEACH CLASSES OR LEAD JEWISH MUSIC SESSIONS? IF SO, DO I GET SOME MONEY OFF OF MY RATE?
Yes we need people to lead various classes and other things as details below. If we take advantage of your skills for the weekend, the discounts will range from $25 to $100 off the rate for you. The amount will depend on how much interest there is in your skill, and how much we need this for the weekend. Let us know what you can do on the RSVP Form.
Here are the potential list of things we need:
Teach and lead yoga classes, Teach a craft,
Lead a Kumzitz with Jewish music around a bandfire and play an instrument such as guitar, violin, etc,
Lead a daily daf yomi shiur or give some Jewish or other scholarly lecture(s) to the group.
Some of the crafts we are seeking are:
Knitting, Chrochetting, Frame Decoration, Jewelry Making, Jewish Papercutting, Water Colors
Basket Weaving, Drawing and use of Light, Photography.
If you have another skill you think we can offer, or another craft, also let us know on the RSVP Form. We will be in touch with those people who have the relevant skills we seek for these positions. Thanks for your help!
ARE THERE ANY CLASSES/DAF YOMI PERHAPS? CAN I GIVE A DVAR TORAH?
Yes, we hope to have someone leading a Daf Yomi Shiur . Also, if you would like to lead a discussion group on a topic that you have been dying to discuss, let me know! We need folks to volunteer to give dvar torahs at each meal, so volunteer before I draft you! Also, anyone who can give serious, scholarly or popular Shiyurim could get a reduced rate as well. Let me know on the RSVP Form, linked above.
PLEASE PAY YOUR DRIVER DIRECTLY for gas and tolls. I have come up with a standard rate of $25, OR $12.50 EACH DIRECTION that will cover those costs. Remember, the drivers are doing us a favor, so make sure to settle up with them directly. Please see the TRANSPORTATION - Rides, Buses and Directions page for all details.
KASHRUT, FOOD, DAVENING, ERUV, ETC
What type of kashrus does this place have? What kind of food to they serve?
The food is catered by the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center. From my experiences over several events at Isabella Freedman in the last 2 years, the food is excellent, with great vegetarian options. Weather permitting, we intend to have a BBQ and a bonfire on Sunday Night. Here is a sample menu. They have excellent vegetarian food and can take some special dietary requests. Please indicate all of this information on the RSVP Form, linked above.
As for kashrus, the kitchen is under the supervision of the main orthodox rabbi in Hartford, Rabbi Adler, the closest major community . I have made inquiries and I am satisfied with the kashrus. Also, the Carlebach Shul has used Isabella Freedman for an annual Thanksgiving Retreat over the last few years and several chabad and YU groups have had events here recently as well.
Do you cater to vegetarians? What kind of healthy food will you have?
Yes. See the sample menu for details of the succulent food they serve. Also, we will have some nash out during the weekend, including a fruit throughout the weekend. We try and accommodate many palates, to the extent possible and to the extent that we are aware of your likes and preferences, on the RSVP Page.
DO YOU HAVE HOT WATER FOR SHABBAT/COFFEE/TEA?
We also have several large urns for shabbat, and at least a dozen types of teas, 8 types of hot chocolate, and several types of coffee, including decaf and regular and some flavored coffees.
Is there an Eruv? What kind of davening will you have? Will there be laining?
Yes, one that encompasses the main areas of the grounds where we are staying. We will detail the boundaries during the weekend. As for the shul, there is a glass walled shul that looks out onto the private lake. You can see pictures of some of the grounds, the shul and other pictures on the pictures page.
We will have minyans throughout the weekend, starting as of Friday evening ( if we have enough people on Thursday night, we might have a Friday morning minyan also), and we will have laining as well on Shabbat and Monday. Let us know if you can daven or lain on the RSVP Form.
Simchat Torah ISSUES—We hope to go again, later this year!
ARE YOU PLANNING TO OFFER Full Laining & Davening with a Minyan on Simchat Torah?
Yes, we intend to have full services with a minyan and mechitza for the time we are there. We will offer all men an aliyah on Simchat Torah as well.
Rooms & Grounds
What kinds of rooms are there? Are any handicap accessible?
We have 3 types of rooms, Deluxe, Standard and Basic. Some Deluxe rooms are handicap accessible. For all details, visit the Room Details Page. Let us know if you need a handicapped room on the RSVP form.
Does the place have air conditioning? Do the rooms have a/c?
Yes, all indoor spaces have air conditioning, including all rooms of any type.
Does the place allow pets?
Sadly, the retreat does not allow any pets, other than those for handicapped individuals.
Can you describe the retreat better?
Here you go, from their site.
Isabella Freedman rests on 450 acres of forested land and lush meadows in the foothills of the southern Berkshires. Our site is nestled at the base of a beautiful forested ridge, which becomes saturated with golden hues every evening during sunset. There are two lakes for boating, fishing, swimming, or simply for contemplation. Well-groomed trails wind around the lakes and stretch into the adjacent forest, connecting after a short distance with the famous Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia.
What is there to do at this place?
Visit the Isabella Freedman Activities Page, or see the list of items on the main page for the weekend. David plans to stay onsite on Sunday, and perhaps organize biking on the nearby trail THAT’S HUGS THE Housatonic River, as well as organizing nearby hiking on Friday and on Sunday.
What are the plans for Offsite plans for Friday , Sunday and Monday?
We have a variety of possibilities, depending on people’s interests, from , boating, hiking, performances, museums, etc. See the main activities page for details. However, there is a great deal of things that you can do onsite, so we recommend staying onsite! As we get closer, we will start to organize the act ivies on and off site, and sort people going offsite into groups, purchase tickets, etc.