Whole High School Shabbaton
The annual High School-wide Shabbaton held at Camp Ramah Darom is highly anticipated all year long. Months in advance, students have the date marked down in their calendars and outfits waiting in their closets. Due to safety concerns stemming from COVID, the Shabbaton did not take place last year, so STUCO had many expectations to satisfy for those who attended before and those who have been anticipating it since they joined the High School.
Before the actual weekend itself, the administration and STUCO worked together to plan a week filled with fun and devoid of stress. Following Presidents Day weekend and a teacher work day, the school week began on Wednesday, when the teachers ran two days of Minimester. For two days, the students learn about new topics they are interested in that are outside of normal classes or curriculum. Students had the opportunity to sign up for classes specializing in rock climbing, Kippah making, criminal psychology, yoga, and more.
On Friday morning, students arrived for a school-wide davening held in the Beit Midrash. After Shacharit, everyone gathered in the center of the Beit Midrash to listen to empowering AJA alumna Shani Kay and her husband Kasriel Kay speak about a family member who was killed fighting for Israel. The students then loaded the buses for the two-hour ride to Ramah’s campus.
Upon arrival at the Levine Center, the building where meals and activities were hosted over the course of the Shabbaton, STUCO set up multiple stations of arts and crafts and activities for the students. Students assembled around the bead-making station, wrote Shabbat-O-Grams that would be delivered to their friends at dinner, played ping-pong to warm up before the final match on Saturday night, played on the basketball court, and made candy Rice Krispie Treats. The schedule left over two hours for students to set up their beds in the bunks and get ready for Shabbat.
Following the time set aside for students to take pictures in front of the beautiful backdrop of the lake and mountains at Ramah, a lively Kabbalat Shabbat filled with dancing and singing was held in the Levine Center Beit Midrash. Sophomore Noam Landman said, “Davening together with everyone was very spiritual and uplifting.” After dinner in the main dining hall, students assembled into their assigned learning groups to discuss questions regarding the Shabbaton’s theme — Ivri Anochi, or Jewish Identity. Each group was led by a faculty member who directed insightful conversations on how each person in the group described their personal Jewish identity. Following the discussion, students returned to the dining hall for an oneg. Students could then choose to join Rabbi E’s tisch (festive Friday night gathering) or head back to their bunks. Senior Miriam Lynn said, “I think the schedule had a good balance between learning and spending time with friends.”
The next day, the schedule continued with the traditional Shabbat activities of Shacharit and then kiddush. Students had time to socialize during kiddush and enjoy the buffet of desserts and drinks, which was then followed by student-led chevrutah groups to discuss the parsha. After learning with their peers, the students headed up to the Dining Hall for lunch. Rabbi Houben’s Minimester class — Cholent for Dummies — learned about the halachot regarding warming food (specifically cholent) on Shabbat and concocted cholent for the students and teachers to enjoy at lunch. Sophomores Leora Frank and Asher Lytton gave a dvar Torah, students sang Shabbat zemirot and benching, and then left for their two-hour menucha break.
Next, students regrouped for a STUCO-led game of real-life Guess Who and seudah shlishit. As Shabbat came to a close, students headed down to the Beit Midrash and sang slow shira until sundown. The students then chanted “Sha, Sha, Shavua Tov” and “Leshana Haba B’Yerushalayim” after a lively havdalah. Senior Leah Houben explained that “after spending the weekend together as a school, slow shira felt more meaningful and powerful.” Senior Elliot Sokol added, “I especially connected to the songs about living in Israel because that’s where I’m going to be next year. It was crazy to process that.”
One of the most anticipated events by many students is the Ramah ping-pong competition held on motzei Shabbat. After a series of matches, Noah Kalnitz and Ethan Rolnick competed in a final competition on the basketball court. The audience enjoyed watching the lively match near a couple of fires set up with hot chocolate and supplies to make smores. After Noah took home the gold, a basketball game was held on the court as well.
The next morning, students packed up the bunks, headed over to the Beit Midrash for a final Shabbaton prayer, and then enjoyed breakfast in the dining hall. STUCO passed out Ramah T-shirts encompassing the theme in the design, and the students headed over to the basketball court to take a group photo. After boarding the buses, students had time to rest, recap their fun-filled weekend, and look forward to next year’s Ramah Shabbaton.