Nestled in the lush farmland of Reisterstown is a true gem of Baltimore and Judaism: The Pearlstone Center. There are so many reasons to fall in love with Pearlstone: its beautiful campus, its welcoming facility, its cozy retreat center, its earthy vibe, the adorable baby goats.
The conference and retreat center, with its hands-on, Torah-based living and learning, is the subject of this week’s cover story by Connor Graham. With an additional 150 acres from the former Camp Milldale property, Pearlstone, now at 180 acres, is in the first stages of implementing its $20 million master plan, which includes building a vineyard, blueberry patches, employee housing, an outdoor amphitheater and greening and solar-energy initiatives.
Pearlstone, now a leader in the JOFEE (Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming and Environmental Education) movement, launched as The Jack Pearlstone Institute for Living Judaism in 1982 with the mission of using informal Jewish education to promote Jewish learning. That mission remains, with Jewish unification at heart of the center from the start. The expanding Pearlstone won’t drastically change the mission, but it will allow more to take part in what it has to offer.
Executive director Jakir Manela tells the JT that while guided by Torah, Pearlstone doesn’t exist in a Jewish vacuum, as was evidenced by a group visit from a West Baltimore elementary school as well as the presence of organizers of a yoga and arts festival.
“Judaism and culture in general can be seen as particular or universal. Our values of sustainability and justice don’t only exist in Judaism,” Manela said. “We’re teaching our values in a broad, universal sense. I think that’s one of the magical things about this place.”