FALLS VILLAGE, Conn. (JTA) -- As a gentle snow fell on the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center last Friday evening, some 85 people gathered inside a wooden lodge to welcome Shabbat -- half in a meditation circle in which Grateful Dead lyrics served as a kind of mantra, the other in a more "traditional" service where the Lecha Dodi prayer was sung to the tune of the Dead classic "Ripple."
It was the second installment of Blues for Challah, a weekend retreat that attracts dozens of Jewish Deadheads -- or "grown-up hippies retracing their past," as one participant described the scene -- to this placid corner of the Connecticut countryside to bask in their collective love and reverence for the Grateful Dead.
Over the course of two days, a colorful sea of devotees -- clad, unsurprisingly, in tie-dye, hemp and oversized knit yarmulkes -- munched on organic food, swapped stories of their days following the Dead and tripping on acid, and of course, jammed.
"The Dead was a traveling band, they were always picking up and moving," Yoseph Needelman, a Deadhead from Jerusalem and the author of a book about the use of marijuana by Chasidic rabbis, told JTA. "Their songs always talk about a road, a path, or driving to get back on a journey. That directly relates to a Jewish journey of traveling to find the right path, and the Chasidic concept of this world being a passageway. Jews and the Dead relate in that we both wander."