Retreat by
(307 Stories)

Prompted By Cousins

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A dozen or so years ago my cousin Kathy called me in New York from DC and asked me to join her the following month for a Jewish women’s retreat.

Because geography had always kept us apart,  spending a weekend with my cousin was appealing and a women’s retreat would be a new experience for us both.

Kathy and I arrived on the beautiful grounds of the Pearlstone Retreat Center in Maryland on a Friday afternoon and met the 16 other participants and the female rabbi and young cantorial student who would be our leaders.  By the end of the weekend many of these women would no longer be strangers,  and my cousin and I would feel much closer.

We did so much that weekend – we recited prayers,  performed rituals,  and shared lively communal meals.  We discussed Jewish beliefs and customs,  learned more about the Jewish matriarchs,  and of course debated Jewish feminism.  We mediated and practiced yoga and took nature walks,  and sang and danced and sat in a drum circle making music together.   And we women talked.

We were of varied ages and backgrounds,  a few like my cousin Kathy were children of mixed marriages seeking their Jewish identity.  Among us was a young woman whose wedding would be the following week,   a bereaved recent widow,  several mothers and daughters,  a woman going through a painful divorce,   a pair of sisters,  and a mother whose young child had just been given a devastating medical diagnosis.  As if by tacit agreement,  one of us was always by her side,  talking or just holding her.

I’m not sure what my cousin and I expected on that first retreat weekend,  but we headed home with a stronger connection to our Judaism, and an appreciation of the powerful bond between women.  Kathy and I went back twice since then,  and once our cousin Deb joined us.  Each year we left retreat feeling wonderfully enriched and renewed.

I think it’s time for another cousins retreat!

Me,  Laurie,  Kathy, Robin, Deb

– Dana Susan Lehrman 

Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Feminism, Women, Judaism, Cousins


  1. John Shutkin says:

    What a lovely story of connecting with a cousin, with other women and with one’s beliefs. And I also gather, Dana, that you are the source of this week’s prompt. So thank you for that as well. I am someone light in the cousin department, so doubt if I will have anything to contribute this week, but have much enjoyed stories like yours about those with stronger bonds.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Sounds like a great bonding experience, Dana.

  3. Suzy says:

    This is a great story, Dana. I would love to go on a retreat like that! Sounds like such a nice way to reconnect with your cousin(s), among other things. Who are the other four women with you in the picture at the bottom? Cousins, or retreat participants, or both?

    • Thanks Suzy, retreat was indeed a wonderful experience.
      The five women in the photo from left to right are me, my sister Laurie, and our cousins Kathy, Robin and Deb.
      Although I wrote wishing we five cousins might go on retreat together, it can never be – tragically my sister Laurie died after a long battle with MS.
      At her funeral my cousin Deb said, We’ll be your sisters now.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    How lucky you are to have had this experience, Dana. Getting to really know your cousins as adults must be a wonderful experience.

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