Stern Christian, 26, is just one of the gems at Pearlstone Center. An earthy guy who recently took up a new hobby, he is the lead educator at the center. As an experiential educator at Pearlstone, Christian facilitates immersion and connection to people, land, and community. Because he needs to know what people might experience and connect with, his job is to observe and be in a relationship with the land. So, one day a week, he sets aside some time to be out in the forest alone, just sitting, watching, listening, and thinking. Other days, he is at the Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC, giving children the opportunity to do the same.
“I can conclusively say, though, that every day presents its own unique gifts and
challenges, and that’s exactly how I like it,” he said.
Stern hails from Essex County, New Jersey. He holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and religious studies from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He lives in Charles Village-Remington in Baltimore and goes to Hinenu: the Baltimore Justice Shtiebl.
What has been the most impactful experience for you at Pearlstone?
My experience at last year’s Sukkot retreat was beautiful.
In preparing for it, I did deep Torah learning on the lulav and etrog to co-create Pearlstone’s official Local Lulav, consisting of spicebush, bamboo, black walnut, and autumn olive. During the retreat itself, I slept, relaxed, and ate at the many sukkot we built around campus, played with children during their parents’ learning time, and davened in the forest and sukkah. All of this is to say that I am massively grateful that I am able to do the work that I do while getting paid to do it.
Share a memory you have of your community that exemplifies its characteristics.
There are a few I could point to from Pearlstone, but at Hinenu, I was really touched when at the shul’s first ever (I think) baby naming, Rabbi Ariana Katz physically rested the baby inside the Sefer Torah. As the baby cooed, and as her parents watched her all verklempt, the rabbi explained that this act not only represented our community’s commitment to supporting her, but also to the Torah’s commitment to do so. I hadn’t seen anything like it before, and haven’t since.
What did you want to be as a kid? Did you see yourself in a similar career?
I recall at some point wanting to be a music journalist? I grew up playing and listening to music almost constantly, so it made sense at the time. Nowadays, I’ll take the music but pass on journalism. No offense to you, of course.
Tell us about your hobbies.
After 25 years of living on this Earth, I decided last summer that it was a good time as any to pick up skateboarding. A couple of skinned elbows, pavement thuds, and half-asleep rides to the farmers market later, I just recently did my first ollie. You know, that bunny hop thing that all the cool kids know how to do? Yeah, that’s me now.
Are there any trends that you will miss from the 2010s?
I feel like I missed out on Snuggies. Also, looking back on planking, I regret not doing it when it was a thing. It was actually cool, I think. Who’s with me?
What role does your Jewish identity play in your daily life?
Shabbat observance has become a guiding force in my life. Some weeks I will light the candles and physically feel my body relax and change shape as I say the bracha. It is a time to be slow, share food, and reconnect with myself, my community, and the Earth. Shabbat is such a precious and sweet and radical gift.