Join the Eshel 2019 National Retreat

Don’t miss the biggest LGBTQ+ Orthodox, ex-Ortho, Ortho-curious gathering ever!

January 18-20, 2019 at the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center

Motzei Shabbat and Sunday

Talent extravaganza. Dance. Music. Dating Initiative. LGBTQ+ in the Movies. More....


Peaceful Setting. Spirited Davening. Soulful Singing. Deep Learning. Parshat Beshalach. Yoga. Connected Community.
Look Back, Moving Forward

This is the topic of our National Retreat this year! Explore with us our past journey as an Orthodox+ LGBTQ+ community and let’s envision the future together! Check out the session highlights. We’re adding weekly!

Looking Back: Modern History

Jonathan Krasner

Award-winning author, researcher, and professor at Brandeis University, Jonathan Krasner is an expert American Jewish History, Jewish Education, Jewish Cultural Studies, Jewish American Youth, and Jewish Gender and Sexual Studies.

Two Queer Publications:

Krasner, Jonathan B.”“‘We All Still Have to Potty Train’: Same Sex Couple Families and the Jewish Community”.” Love, Marriage and Jewish Families: Paradoxes of a Social Revolution. 1st ed. Ed. Sylvia B. Fishman. Hanover, NH: Brandeis/UPNE, 2016. 73-107.

Krasner, Jonathan B. “Without Standing Down: The First Queer Jewish Street Protest,” in Queer Jews, Ed. David Shneer and Caryn Aviv. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Meet Howard Rosenman, Film Producer of The Celluloid Closet, Call Me By Your Name, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

Howard Zvi Rosenman is a Brooklyn-born and Queens-bred descendant of four Hasidic dynasties.

In 1995 he produced The Celluloid Closet—a documentary that highlights 100 years of Hollywood’s portrayal of LGBT characters.

Join us at Eshel’s National Retreat for a screening and discussion of The Celluloid Closet with Howard Rosenman.

Looking Forward: Eshel Dating Initiative
Joanna Halpern

In order to better serve the LGBTQ+ community, Eshel has launched a Queer Dating Initiative! Possibly you have taken the survey. Join our Nation Retreat this year as programmer, Joanna Halpern, walks us through the new Queer Dating Website.

Join the biggest LGBTQ+ Orthodox+ gathering ever.

Give a Session, Perform at the Talent Show, Volunteer!

We gather during our annual weekend, on Parshat  Beshalach, with other Orthodox/formerly Orthodox/traditional/Ortho-curious individuals who seek connection and community.

This retreat is also for anyone who wants a Shomer Shabbat experience with other LGBTQ+ Jews. During Shabbat we get to know each other, learn, sing, and shmooze, and Saturday night we share our talents and have lots of fun! On Sunday we offer exciting out-of-the-box learning opportunities.

This year, the weekend begins roughly around candle-lighting times at 4:39 pm and goes through Sunday.  Stay tuned for more information on the program as we get closer to the date.


Address:  116 Johnson Road, Falls Village, CT 06031 • 860.824.5991


The terrain at Isabella Freedman includes a mix of gravel and paved roads, gentle inclines and grassy areas. When we are there, it is usually cold and snowy, and incredibly beautiful.


All beds are twins, unless otherwise noted.  Bedding and towels are provided.  Each room has a bureau or closet, chair, lamp, alarm clock, towels and soap. A small refrigerator can be rented for a $ 25 fee. All cottages are fully winterized.  None of the units have doors that may be locked from the outside. Valuables may be stored in the office safe. Rooms do not have telephones or television sets. Each cottage has one phone in a common hallway or porch space.

During cooler months, rooms are heated to a comfortable 68­­­°. Where thermostats are accessible to participants, we ask that you follow instructions on accompanying signage to ensure that you and your neighbors are comfortable and to conserve energy. Where thermostats are not accessible, please ask a site coordinator for assistance.

Cots and cribs may be added to certain rooms but not to others so please let us know well in advance and we will be glad to help you with these requests. Please notify us if you have a physical challenge that requires you to be close to the main building or in a wheelchair accessible room.

If you have a question about the different room options, contact



Transportation to and from the retreat is at your own expense.  Stay tuned for the Ride Board or offer a carpool to the retreat. Here are some options below.

By Metro-north train:

Take the Metro North train to Wassaic. The trip is approximately 2 hours from Grand Central. Call 1-800-METRO-INFO or visit for an updated schedule.  Click here for a link to fares.

Getting from train to retreat site:

Upon registering, you can sign up for the Isabella Freedman shuttle that will bring you to and from the train station in Wassaic.  The drive from Wassaic to Isabella Freedman is about 30 minutes.


This shuttle will only pick you up if you are on the train that leaves Grand Central Station on Jan. 18th at 11:47 a.m. and arriving at 2:03 p.m. into Wassaic.


This shuttle will only bring you from the retreat site at the end of the retreat on Jan. 20th to the 2:27 train in Wassaic arriving into Grand Central Station at 4:46.

Shuttle One way=$25

Shuttle Round trip= $50

The shuttle payment is non-refundable. If you are signing up for the shuttle after you have registered, click here to make a payment.  Indicate in the memo line that the payment is for the shuttle.

Third-party taxi service is available from the Wassaic train station to Isabella Freedman.You must call in advance for a reservation. Lakeville Taxi: (860) 435 8000.

By plane:

Bradley International Airport in Hartford, CT is located 1­­­¼ hours from the retreat center. We can recommend third-party taxi and limousine services from the airport to Isabella Freedman.

By bus:

PETER PAN / BONANZA BUS LINES offers daily bus service to Canaan, CT from New York City and points throughout New England. Call (888) 751-8800 for a schedule. This is a 3-hour trip from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Third-party taxi service is available from the Canaan bus station to Isabella Freedman. You must call in advance for a reservation. Lakeville Taxi: (860) 435 8000.

For more directions and transportation information, please visit the Isabella Freedman website.

All retreat participants must check in upon arrival. Check-in typically begins at 2:00 pm.  The program usually begins around candle-lighting time which is 4:39 pm.

All members of the group must check out of their rooms by 9:00 am on the scheduled day of departure. If you have not checked out of your room by 9:00 am, an additional $25 per person late fee will be charged. Departure from the retreat site is usually no later than 2.00 p.m.

Some participants may not be out as LGBT in their daily lives, or may have other important reasons for keeping their attendance at the event confidential. You have affirmed that you WILL NOT POST OR DISTRIBUTE PHOTOGRAPHS or audio/video recordings of other attendees publicly unless you have the EXPLICIT permission of every attendee represented therein. This includes distribution or posting online on flickr, Facebook, MySpace, and similar sites, as well as anywhere else in which photographs and other representations are publicly available.

INFORMATION: Please do not share information you have heard about individuals at the retreat with anyone else.  For many people who attend, strict confidentiality is crucial.


There is a wide range of pricing and housing options at Isabella Freedman, from a Dorm room at $290 to a Deluxe Single in the Weinberg or May buildings at $790.  When you click on the Register Here button above, you will see a description of the choices in housing.  Registration prices are per person, and include all meals and activities throughout the weekend.



Financial Aid: We are committed to making our weekends as inclusive and accessible as possible. We provide a limited amount of financial aid available for those who, for financial reasons, cannot otherwise attend.


  1. Fill out the financial aid form.
  2. You will hear back from us within one to two weeks of applying with instructions and a registration code.
  3. You will have a few days to register.  After that time we will pass on the aid to someone else.

Once Upon Some Messy Fun

Dancing thru the Decades

More Frequently Asked Questions

Halakhic and kashrut information, childcare, refund policy, and more.

Need Financial Assistance?

Stay tuned for more weekend highlights!

Help Others Attend

Donate to the Barry Youngerman Z”L Scholarhip Fund

Over 30% of participants request aid; help make it possible for them to attend this life-changing event!

When you donate, please write a memo for the Barry Younger Z”L Scholarship Fund.

Barry Youngerman, Z”L, was a beloved member of our community, an active member at the Lincoln Square Synagogue, and a friend to many.

Have questions? Contact us!

What Participants are Saying about the National Retreat

“It was a transformative experience. I feel like I really internalized and accepted in a more complete way than I did before that being LGBTQ are ways of being in the world.”

“Thank you very much for all your hard work!!! For some of us this is the only oportunity to step out in the sun and spend at least one shabbos a year in our truth. And tremendous thank you to all the sponsors who made this retreat more accesable for people who would otherwise not be able to make it. For some it’s pikuach nefesh.

“This opportunity was unreal! Keep rocking it out and doing this, because there are so many people who need it. Thank you so much for creating this space and for enabling me To be a part of it.”

“I felt fully comfortable in Shul for the first time in a long while. Just a tremendously moving experience. Made me realize what is was like to be accepted — and to have my child accepted — by the kehilla.”

Eshel National Retreat