JDS should end Shabbatons

Our objective with this article was to express our opinion and constructively explain why CESJDS should stop having Shabbatons. In hindsight, the tone and language used in our article seems overly harsh. While we stand by our original opinion, we would like to acknowledge and thank the JDS staff who dedicate many hours to planning and chaperoning the Shabbatons.

The weekend before winter break, the sophomore class went on their annual Shabbaton at Capital Camps and Retreat Center in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. While it may seem that Shabbatons that include praying, games and discussions are a good way for the grade to bond over shared experiences and common beliefs, it only divides the grade further due to a lack of control over students and activities. That is why CESJDS should no longer have class Shabbatons.

Although the idea of a weekend that forces students to come together as a grade sounds beneficial, the JDS administration’s strict schedule of praying, meals and Torah learning prevent time for relaxing. In order to avoid these tedious activities, students ditch many of them and end up wasting the day away being unproductive and antisocial.

The large campus makes it difficult for administrators to know where every student is at a given moment in time, creating disorder on Shabbatons. Additionally, this results in the more religious students praying, while the less observant students find other activities such as sports or taking long walks around camp with their individual friend groups.

The JDS administration also fails to effectively prevent homework assignments over the weekend. Many  teachers assign tests and quizzes on the following Tuesday, forcing students to study on the Sunday that they return from Shabbatons in order be prepared. This means that students who go on the Shabbaton not only experience a poorly planned Friday and Saturday programming, but also are forced to cram for assignments on Sunday.

These factors, combined with ineffective planning by the administration, led to a lack-luster experience for the sophomore class and also led us to believe that Shabbatons, in general, are not a beneficial use of a weekend. Unless the administration can effectively find a way to provide a more bonding, engaging and overall enjoyable use of a Shabbaton, we believe they should be abolished entirely.