What’s an Intentional Community?

Hi, I’m Sam, and I’m the Teva intern this summer. Since I started the internship, I’ve been continuously learning new phrases and concepts. After three weeks of scrolling through Teva archives, sitting in on staff meetings, and spending three days at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, it’s no surprise that my Jewish vocabulary and knowledge of gardening had expanded. However, there were other new words I couldn’t quite understand.

Within the first hour of arriving at Isabella Freedman, the two supervisors accompanying us sat us (the other interns and me) down in a circle on the couches and asked, “Have you ever lived in an intentional community? If so, what was it like?”

I soon grew nervous. Not because I didn’t want to answer the question or because I didn’t want to share an experience. I didn’t know what an intentional community was. It was a foreign concept to me. I sat as my fellow intern friends spoke of living in the Moishe House and their sorority house with 50 other girls and summers in Yellowstone national park with other teenagers. As I listened, I pieced together a simple definition for “intentional community.” To my understanding, it consists of individuals living together, brought together and unified by a shared set of principles, purpose, and values.

I racked my brain. I thought of my lacrosse and volleyball team practices throughout high-school, my nights at sleep-away camp, and various trips to many different states and countries with family, friends, and organizations. However, when it was my turn to answer the question, I said I have yet to be part of an intentional community.

An intentional community has a deeper role. There is something truly unique and special about committing yourself to live with others with the same interests and goals. It is a powerful experience to live by your values and fulfill your goals alongside others. This is what the people at Isabella Freedman have done. Furthermore, this is what the Teva educators of the Topsy Turvy bus tour are experiencing.

Just as we were about to depart Isabella Freedman to head back to the NYC Hazon office, we ran into Jacob, one of the Teva bus educators. He was in the midst of training for the bus tour and asked us if we’d like to check out the bus.

He gave us a brief tour, pointing out the beds, the oil filters, the boxes full of books, costumes, composting worms, etc. He then told us their plan for the summer. They have just started life aboard the packed double-decker school-bus where they will be living for the next 7 weeks. They will spend the remainder of the summer engaging kids all over the Northeast in workshops like the bike-blender and composting worms. They will trigger discussion about sustainability, conservation, and how Judaism fits in. On the road, they will be stopping by local restaurants to pick-up their leftover vegetable oil for the bus engine. People all over will stop them to ask them questions, and they will open up their home to share their story with these strangers-turned-friends.

After stepping off the bus, I felt like I finally fully comprehended the power of an intentional community. Here the Teva educators were living on mattresses stacked above, below and next to each other and sharing the responsibilities that come along. But they chose to be here and they are beyond excited to transition from training to visiting, educating, and discussing.

Many people I know would shy away from this job because of the lack of the “home’s” personal bedrooms and privacy altogether. But most people I know have also never experienced the privilege of being part of an intentional community and working together to do something so great and so passionately at the same time.


One response to “What’s an Intentional Community?

  1. Hi Sam,

    Great post. Thank you.



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