National Jewish Retreat includes lectures, workshops and kosher food


Sherri Mandell, keynote speaker at the Jewish Learning Institute’s National Jewish Retreat /JLI TORAH CAFE STAFF ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Yiddishkeit (Jewish feelings, attitudes) was front and center for participants at the eighth annual National Jewish Retreat in Alexandria, earlier this month.

Five simultaneous workshops every 90 minutes included academic, historic, spiritual, cultural and inspirational lectures, with such presentations as “How to Pray with Passion and Purpose,” “A Rabbi’s View on the BRCA Gene Mutation,” “Are You Living or Just Existing?” and “Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine.”

The Aug. 6 – 11 retreat was coordinated by JLI (the Rohr Institute of the Jewish Learning Institute), the adult education arm of Chabad Lubavitch, the largest network of adult education in the world serving 660 communities across the globe. Offering Jews from smaller communities the opportunity to learn directly from many Torah scholars, the retreat included a Dudu Fisher concert and comedic entertainment.

The scholars were world class, the learning was interesting and engaging, the kosher food was delicious and the retreat’s organization was topnotch. I was honored to have the opportunity to interview several scholars through Torah Café, which is part of JLI.

This year’s retreat also included an accredited track for medical professionals focusing on Jewish medical ethics, a Jewish Women’s Day on Rosh Hodesh (new moon) Elul and a symposium on the historical, psychological and halakhic (Jewish law) perspectives of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising on its 70th anniversary.

Sherri Mandell, a keynote speakers, talked about her son, Koby, who was murdered in Israel in 2001. Kobe, then 13, and his friend Yosef Ish Ran were hiking in a canyon near the Mandell home when Arab terrorists stoned them to death. The Mandells later created the Koby Mandell Foundation, which provides healing programs for families struck by terrorism.

Patricia Raskin (, an East Greenwich resident, hosts and produces three radio shows and is an author, speaker and radio coach.

The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute: