Sophomore shabbaton

Ella Waldman , News Editor

After two years of waiting, the sophomore class went on their first shabbaton. They missed out on their eighth-grade and freshman year shabbatons due to COVID-19 restrictions. The weekend began the morning of April 29 with a trip to Pinstripes Bowling Alley and then continued at Capital Camps for Shabbat. 

CESJDS staff decided at the beginning of the school year that each shabbaton this year would have a theme that connected to some of the school’s core values. The freshman shabbaton centered around “K’hillah & K’dushah,” or community and holiness, and although the seniors did not have an official shabbaton, their “Sunday-a-ton” focused on the theme of “Celebrating One Another.” The theme of both the sophomore and junior shabbatons was “Pluralism in Practice.”

“The whole grade has gathered together for Shabbat, which they don’t normally do, and so we’re going to have people experiencing Shabbat in a lot of different ways,” Assistant Dean and math teacher Victoria Ball said. “How can we make space for people to talk a little bit about what does it mean that we’re a pluralistic school, what does it mean that we try to provide space for all sorts of different people?”

With these ideas in mind, activities included conversations about the meaning of pluralism and about how this value can be seen in American and Jewish life. 

The theme of pluralism was also reflected in the various prayer options offered. Students were able to choose between egalitarian services, mechitza services and alternative services including discussions or yoga and meditation. 

Aside from religious-based programming, student leaders also planned several programs such as bunk skits, trivia and a game where students had to match a fun fact to a teacher chaperone. 

Since the sophomore shabbaton fell on the weekend after spring break, everyone attending the trip was asked to take a rapid test at home on the morning of April 29. A negative result from the rapid test, combined with a negative result from the PCR test all JDS community members take on Mondays, were required prior to the trip. 

However, several people tested positive on their PCR tests, including Ball, who was slated to serve as the trip leader. High school history teacher Matt Cohen was asked to step in as trip leader in her place. 

Ball said that many of the activities that she had planned to lead were solely in her head. So, once she got her positive test result, she wrote down as much information as she could regarding announcements and programs that Cohen would be taking on. 

“At first I was a little stressed about how it was going to come together. She didn’t let me know, because she didn’t find out until I think it was Tuesday afternoon,” Cohen said. “It was really stressful… but credit to Ms. Ball, she worked really hard, she sent a bunch of emails, she got everything coordinated, and it made things a lot easier for me.”

Despite the last-minute staffing changes, the shabbaton was still an incredible success, with both students and staff citing the experience as positive. 

“I got to know the grade a lot better. I felt like we bonded outside of school, which was really nice,” sophomore Darya Dayanim said. “It [allowed] us to expand beyond just the school environment, not just when we need to go to each other for [help with schoolwork,] but just to get to know each other better. These connections will go past high school.”

Ball shared this sentiment and explained the multifaceted importance of shabbatons. She described both the significance of the pluralistic celebration of Judaism as well as the opportunity for students to interact in ways they would not in a traditional school setting.

“I think there’s something incredibly powerful about saying we’re going to spend Shabbat together, and we want everyone to find a meaningful point of connection with that,” Ball said. “Also, just for the grade…if you take people out of the school building, they’re going to interact with each other slightly differently, and that might lead to different connections or different thoughts.”