June 27, 2018

The singing was louder this morning as we were welcomed to our day. We sat in a circle surrounded by green hills as last night’s s’more ashes blew around in the light breeze. Some people are wearing their headbands from last night’s DWELL-olympics in which one of the participants on the team that came in last told me, “but we had the most fun, so…”

I never went to Jewish sleepaway camp but I have been to a lot of conferences. Lanyards aside, DWELL does not remotely resemble any conference I have ever attended. The most noticeable thing that is keenly lacking from DWELL that is at every other conference that I have ever been to is the feeling of “networking”. There is no looking over shoulders for the more important person to speak with, no long range career planning. It is refreshing in its earnestness. What people seem to be seeking here is depth.

This afternoon I facilitated a session called, Chevruta 101 in which we read the opening paragraph of Winnie the Pooh and had a Chevruta style conversation asking the text, “is change possible?” “Of course,” one person answered, “but it requires sacrifice.” Another person said that yes, change is possible, but “only after we realize our powerlessness.” And yet one more person told this story:

“I don’t remember the source,” she said. “But it reminds me of a Jewish story. A man wanted to change the world. He realized he couldn’t, so he tried to change his country. He realized he couldn’t so he tried to change his village. He realized he couldn’t so he tried to change his family. He realized he couldn’t, so he tried to change himself”.

Shallow conversations do not last long here. The participants here talk about privilege. They talk about boundaries. They talk about the students with whom they work with concern and care. And they laugh a lot as they care about these things. A limited technology rule was mentioned once and has not had to be repeated.

People are outside on the lawn right now, singing along to Fiddler on the Roof. The singing is getting louder and it is coming from somewhere deep within.

Vanessa Zoltan is the founder and CEO of Not Sorry Productions and co-host of the podcast, Harry Potter & the Sacred Text. You can usually find her living in Cambridge, MA. but this week she’s DWELLING at Hope Lake Lodge.