As a passenger in the first car to arrive at Lenore Ruben’s stunning Hamptons home, I was excited for what was ahead of me. We walked up to the front door and were greeted by Lenore, the founder/president of ELEM/YOUTH in Distress in Israel, who was taking care of some last minute things to wake the house up from its winter sleep.
The fireplace was lit. Our great chefs headed to the kitchen and began to make our Shabbat dinner. Candles were lit, wine was poured and were off to a tantalizing dinner of tilapia, chicken, salads and lots of other good stuff. Thanks, Guy and Shira for taking the lead and making everyone happy.
After dinner, we sat by the warmth of the fireplace. Rinat led us in a “get to know you”, Bingo game. We found out all sorts of tidbits about each other to make us closer. For example, the Lion, former Sen. Ted Kennedy, personally handled one of our activists’ visa problems. Most of us probably knew who began talking at 9 months. The night continued on. We all just sat and chatted. Eventually, we went to bed. Nothing is better than summer camp style sleeping. In other words, air mattresses were scattered about the floor.
We woke up to a breakfast that could have fed the masses at any hotel. Once again, our chefs prepared a dazzling feast that included, French toast, bagels, salads, juices and eggs.
Rinat directed us outdoors to Lenore’s spacious yard, where we conducted our warm up games. We spent some time forming pyramids. The geometry got a little tough for a moment. But we did it. We tossed a ball or two around and played catch. But we had rules on how we had to approach our games of catch.
The views we were treated to were spectacular. The swans swimming in the lake looked so peaceful. To the happiness of some, we went back inside where it was a bit warmer. We continued to play our trust building games.
Rinat challenged us to answer what our goals were for our group. We all agreed we want to raise awareness about our mission in order to provide more help for distressed Jewish and Arab Israeli youth.
Our challenges continued. One of our activists stood in the middle of our circle and had to free fall into the circle. It reminded me of my old fraternity days. But much credit goes to Rinat for making this more civil. We were not free fallin’ while blindfolded off the top row of the bleachers on SUNY New Paltz’s “Tripping Fields”.
But rest assured, we were shortly blindfolded. One of us was blindfolded. The other was not. We had to guide each other from various points and avoid the many obstacles, while trying to find candy. The games continued.
We did a few other exercises and then got into a contentious discussion about ELEM-Entry’s structure and the way some things are run.
Let’s face it, no family gathering is free of contention. But if we didn’t care about and believe in each other we probably wouldn’t have gotten as angry. We were just trying to come to some agreements. Hey, it is human nature to have these squabbles. Every volunteer group has them.
We had a brief break. Following it, we treated an amazing selection of hot dogs, beef kabobs, Asian chicken and much more. We were well fed before we took the stage.
We got to try our hand at drawing in a take of everyone’s drawing game, Pictionary. We got to dress up and act out a few scenes. Once the opening acts concluded, “dress up” Karaoke night began.
After a debate about song selection, my team picked Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”. Our song and dance routine scored the maximum twenty points. It was well way too sexy for paper or my shirt…
Bedtime arrived. I was lucky enough to wake up super early and watch the sun rise over the lake.
Thanks Lenore for once again lending us your space. More important, thanks for being there with us and sharing your inputs and observations.
The inspiring retreat ended. But what didn’t end was the goal of strengthening ELEM-Entry to make many children’s lives better. We have our work cut out for us. But with the teamwork we’ve been building there’s no doubt we can hit that grand slam.