The first such gathering of its kind, the event — scheduled for December 9-11, 2011 — hopes to bring together Jewish Deadheads from throughout the northeast and beyond for a weekend including Grateful Dead inspired davenning and d’vrei torah, lectures, discussion groups, and–of course–plenty of music. Participants will be encouraged to bring their own instruments and be part of the jamming.
The retreat is the brainchild of Isabella Freedman’s Executive Director, David Weisberg, a Deadhead himself who once performed in a Grateful Dead cover band in his college days. “I remember being at a Dead concert and seeing someone wearing a ‘Jews for Jerry’ button,” Weisberg said, the “Jerry” referring to the Grateful Dead’s renowned leader, Jerry Garcia. “It was clear to me then what a great connection there is between many Jews and the Grateful Dead, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to create an event to bring Jewish Deadheads together in spiritual harmony and celebration.”
The Grateful Dead Shabbaton will feature two spiritual leaders, Rabbi Moshe Shur and Rabbi Howard Cohen.Rabbi Shur, an Orthodox Rabbi known to many as “the Rockin Renaissance Rabbi” is a Senior Associate at the Center for Jewish Studies at Queens College.
A founding member of the first Jewish religious rock group and part of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s musical circle, Shur jammed with musicians including the Grateful Dead during his years living in San Francisco. “Thank G-D for Shabbos.
“Thank Jerry for the Grateful Dead,” says Rabbi Shur, in anticipation of December’s event. “A Grateful Dead Shabbaton? Only in America.”Rabbi Cohen, a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical School, is a lifelong Deadhead and currently runs “Burning Bush Adventures,” leading adventure trips that integrate Judaism and wilderness camping. “The energy, music, and spirit at a gathering of Deadheads is like a religious experience,” says Rabbi Cohen.
“Their music always helps me transcend whatever I am struggling with at any given time and gets me back in touch with a sense of holiness. The only other experience that can repeatedly do that for me is spending time in the wilderness.”
Those interested in participating in the Shabbaton, whether lifelong Deadheads or simply curious, can learn more by visiting www.isabellafreedman.org/gratefuldead or phoning 860.824.5991.