A new book of high holiday art
The red heifer, and gentleness amidst grief

A Week of Building With the Bayit Board

BayitCollage2-2024How to describe the particular joy of convening with fellow-builders and friends? The annual Bayit board retreat is a time for brainstorming, visioning, looking back and looking forward, adjusting course. Conversations weave and flow. We riff off of each other, ideas sparking. We go from tachlis / practical questions to deep spiritual work. It's like making jazz, and it reminds me why I love what I do.

We oscillate between board meetings (some of us joining remotely via Zoom), meetings of various working groups, and downtime. We talk about organizational structure and what will best serve us going forward. We re-examine Bayit's mission and vision. We revise our website so it better reflects us. We look at the organic evolution of our organization and our build projects and what might come next.

In quiet moments on the living room couches or on the mirpesset or up on the roof we work together on the manuscript for Judith Schmidt's Blessing from Broken. We read particularly great lines out loud to each other, marveling at how good this work is and how lucky we feel to be midwifing it into the world. We talk about how and why our organizational values support collaborative co-creation.

We daven every morning, and sometimes afternoon and evening. What a profound gift that is for me. Often we pray on the roof deck of our rented house under the tent of the big open sky. It's different every time, an impromptu interweaving of melodies and nusach: sometimes a cappella, sometimes with a nylon-stringed guitar or two, a quick familiar glide through liturgy or a slow luxurious stroll.

One morning we pray-test a new-old melody for Modah Ani, singing the first line to the tune of the Mingulay Boat Song. Another morning we pray Psalm 136 to the tune of the Banana Boat Song. On the 4th of July we interweave the Declaration of Independence into morning prayers, and sing Mi Chamocha to the Star-Spangled Banner -- and reflect on our aspirations for this place where we live.

We talk about congregational service, tools for supporting shul boards, games that could lift up spiritual meanings of Purim. Together we think through how to structure the Visual Mahzor we're publishing, and we work on a curriculum we'll be releasing soon, for a high holiday prep course on teshuvah. We make many pots of coffee. We walk to the ocean and marvel at its perpetual motion and beauty.

We hone in on why we do what we do. There are great conversations about the spiritual importance of uplifting others' voices, about games and card decks and publications, bench marks and evaluation, how we know when something "works," new ways of engaging with familiar texts, organizational structures and modalities, Agile coaching and design thought, working groups and leadership ladders.

And then we set aside our work and spend a precious Shabbat together. As always, it's both beautiful and bittersweet because it means the week will end! We dine and bless and sing and pray (and read and nap and play board games -- summer Shabbats are luxuriously long.) Now it's time to return home... and to keep creating, testing, refining, and sharing tools for a Jewish future always under construction.