The NHC’s flagship program, the week-long Summer Institute, will take place July 29 – August 4, 2019 at the University of Hartford, providing a unique opportunity for serious study, moving prayer, spirited conversation, late-night jam sessions, singing, dancing, and meditation – all in the company of more than 300 people from a wide range of backgrounds. Each year, participants leave the Institute reinvigorated and excited to return to their home communities to share new ideas, skills, and experiences.
Stay tuned for the 2019 theme!
At the Summer Institute, every teacher is also a student and every student is a teacher. People who are usually called “rabbi” or “professor” throughout the year go by their first names here. And people who rarely take active leadership roles in their communities discover that they, too, can teach and contribute to the community.
One of the NHC Summer Institute’s greatest strengths is the diversity of its participants. We are musicians, doctors, students, furniture makers, retirees, Jewish professionals, homemakers, teachers, activists, and just about everything else:
Intergenerational: At the 2016 Summer Institute, the youngest participant was a month and a half old, while we had 9 folks in our midst with the wisdom of over 80 years. Participants from all age groups shared meals, stories, teachings, songs, and talents all week long.
Pluralistic and Inclusive: The NHC Summer Institute includes people committed to various forms of traditional and non-traditional Jewish practice, Jews from birth, Jews by choice, Jews with multiple religious heritages, non-Jews, and people exploring Judaism.
Diverse backgrounds and lives: NHC Summer Institute participants hold a variety of identities including LGBTQ and straight; people of color, Sephardi, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi; urban, rural, and suburban; Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal, secular, and Jewish without labels.
Learning for Everyone: NHC Summer Institute participants also have a variety of Jewish learning backgrounds, from those with no formal Jewish education to those with Ph.D.s in Talmud.
The dynamic process of exploring together what Judaism and Jewishness means in our lives is a highlight of the Summer Institute.
Every day at the Summer Institute, participants lead each other in a different menu of spirited prayer options in many styles, including daily traditional egalitarian morning services with full Hebrew liturgy, plus meditative, movement, and musical services, with and without instruments, both indoors and outdoors, as well as mincha (afternoon) and maariv (evening) services. All minyanim organized and sponsored by the NHC are fully egalitarian, with equal participation regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
One way in which we share ourselves with each other at the Summer Institute is through hour-long workshops that occur each morning and afternoon during the week. Anyone can propose a workshop, and it’s a great place to try out a new idea or experiment with teaching and leading. This is a great way to share something with our community. Workshops can be presented in any format that the teacher/facilitator can imagine, from discussion to hevruta/paired learning to lecture to shared activity (e.g., group run).
In 2016, a toddler co-led a workshop on appreciating ants, concurrently with others’ workshop discussions of The Best (and Worst) of Big Biblical Epics, a trip to Budapest, Warsaw, and Krakow to study the legacies of the Jewish life, antisemitism, and resistance in these cities, Shabbat Menus for Busy People, Bhakti: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lord, and Admission to Olam Haba: A Post-Temple Rabbinic Power Grab? Other options included Yiddish Dancing to Live Music and a Birth/Parenting Story Slam. And that was just one of 8 workshop slots during the week!
Courses are a central part of the Institute experience. Each Institute participant may enroll in two courses, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Courses meet Tuesday through Friday for 1.5 hour sessions. Each course has a maximum of 20 students and is led by a teacher who is also an Institute participant, presenting material that they love in an inclusive style that encourages everyone to participate.
Each evening after dinner, the community gathers for programming as a large group. Some of these programs may be led by the Timbrel Artists in Residence, Hollander Social Justice Fellow, or the Liturgist in Residence. Some may be serious discussions of issues with which we want to engage as a community. Some will be lighter-hearted ways to connect – a talent show, a dance party.
The community that gathers for Summer Institute wants to make the most of our time together. Each evening after our large-group program, we offer other structured opportunities to enjoy each others’ company: making music (American folk singing, sharing niggunim, instrument jam session), playing games (board, card, improv), dancing (cardio, Israeli folk), singing along to movie musicals, additional studying, and other sorts of merry-making. All participants can volunteer to lead a late-night program in their registration.
And whatever else you want to make happen!
Looking to make contact with folks from your home geography? Want to explore the themes of Harry Potter through a Jewish lens? Are you an early riser who wants to circumnavigate campus with others before breakfast? Seeking support for building your crochet or Torah reading skills? Need a haircut? Put up a notice about your interest and where and when others can meet up with you. We are the ones who build our community! We are the ones who decide what that looks like!