This profile was last updated in 2003
Elat Chayyim is a Jewish renewal retreat center located in the Catskill mountains of upstate New York. Founded ten years ago by Rabbi Jeff Roth and Joanna Katz, Elat Chayyim offers weekly retreats during the summer months and has recently expanded to include retreats during the fall and winter as well. The weekly retreats include classes with top faculty, vegetarian food, spiritual community, yoga and meditation offerings, and a unique prayer experience. Guests, faculty and staff come from literally all over the world to reconnect with Judaism, share what they have learned from other paths, renew old interests, or experience the community formed each week. Class topics range from Jewish-Hindu encounter, to Jewish spirituality, to yoga.
Elat Chayyim began as a project from the board of ALEPH (Alliance for Jewish Renewal), the central organization in Jewish renewal. ALEPH was formed through the union of two organizations: Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi’s P’nai Or, which focused mainly on spirituality, and Arthur Waskow’s Shalom Center, whose primary focus was politics. Although Elat Chayyim is now no longer technically affiliated with ALEPH due to its size and budget, the two organizations remain quite close, sharing values, ideas, and people power.
Today, Elat Chayyim is one of the retreat centers of the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in CT.
Although Elat Chayyim is a deeply and richly Jewish place, some guests are not of Jewish background. Those that are Jewish have often experimented with other traditions, or have made other spiritual practices such as yoga and meditation part of their daily practice. Elat Chayyim seeks not only to accommodate those individuals who have had no formal Jewish education, but also to welcome Jews who have found wisdom in other places, affirming that what they have learned can be done in a Jewish context. Guests and faculty comment that we are living in an era when it has become crucially important to get to know one’s neighbors, and to share with one another the wisdom gained from different traditions.