Monday, November 18, 2013

Cohort 5's First Shabbaton!

The Diller Teen Fellows of Cohort 5 have reflected on their first Shabbaton, which took place from November 8th-10th, 2013 at Camp Ramah in Palmer, MA. To see a full album of photos from the retreat, please click here.

Rachel Goodman (Needham): As I boarded the bus to go to Camp Ramah I felt a bit nervous.  Although I had met the fellows twice before, I was still unfamiliar with everyone’s names.   I hoped to learn a bit more each fellow and their personalities throughout the weekend.  Luckily, the wonderful staff was able to put together some programs that helped me to get to know everyone.  Our first program was called “The Jelly Bean Activity” which was lead by the JCs.  This exercise focused on our views and beliefs on personal, social, political, and religious issues.  Each fellow was given a bag containing three different colors of jellybeans and a plastic cup with a prompt.  Under the prompt, there were three possible answers to the question, which were color-coded based upon the jellybeans.  Fellows read aloud their prompts, which included: “What are your study habits?” and “How often do you go to synagogue” and even “what are your thoughts on gay marriage?”  As the cup was passed around each person put a jellybean in which corresponded with his or her answer.  After, we assessed the results and had a discussion.  It was interesting to hear what the other fellows had to say about their opinions, as well as how they defended their statement.  One discussion that stood out to me was about how often we attended synagogue.  The answers ranged from “only on high holidays” to “every Shabbat.”  This made me realize what a diverse group of Jews we have in our cohort.  This also excited me because I was eager to learn about my peers’ ways of observing Judaism. 
Our next program was “The Diller Lens” and was lead by Liana.  We were handed two pictures: one with two older people holding an Israeli Flag on an airplane, and the other that illustrated a woman and two boys laying flat on the ground looking petrified.  The fellows were asked to list the objective and subjective qualities of the pictures.  While writing my observations down, I realized how quickly people could draw conclusions.  I looked at the picture of the older couple, and saw that they were smiling.  I immediately thought: “Oh, they’re happy,” but then realized that was a subjective quality of the picture; although they were smiling, I did not have the information to conclude that these people were truly happy.  The group reconvened and discussed our observations of the photos.  We noticed that many of our notes were the same, in which we used our prior knowledge about Israel and Judaism.  We then talked about how a non-Jewish person would look at them, and wondered what conclusions they might draw.  We then transitioned into the next part of “The Lens.”  We watched an award-winning short film called The Tribe which described the making of Barbie and then the modern Jewish culture and people.  After the movie, all of the fellows were speechless and confused: we had no idea what we had just watched!  The movie seemed to jump from theme to theme, having no concrete plot.  We tried to decode the message of the film, but were still confused.  Eventually, we concluded that the maker of the film was trying to get the point across that the Jewish people have changed and adapted to modern day.
Our final program was led by the Leaders of the Day, Hannah and Hillel.  They educated us on Haifa, and taught us about the famous sights, places, and culture of the city.  The reason they focused on Haifa was because our sister cohort is located there.  After the lesson, we played a trivia game and used all of the knowledge we had just learned about the city to answer the questions.  This program was extremely helpful for me because I have never been to Haifa, and was curious about the places and culture in the area.  After, we made a video for our sister cohort to introduce ourselves.  In our movie, we creatively introduced ourselves through a silly song. We all had a fantastic time making the video, and all agreed that we are super excited to meet our friends in Haifa.  All in all, I feel that these programs helped us to get to know each other and bond as a group.  From sharing our opinions to singing about our names and qualities, this weekend could not have been any better.  I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the fellows at our next workshop, and cannot wait until the next Shabbaton in February!

David Grossman (Nashua): Although all of us are Jewish, our levels of commitment and ideologies differ greatly. So, it was very interesting to celebrate a Shabbat together. Shabbos began right as we got to Camp Ramah and we quickly changed into our Shabbos clothes to light candles. With us during this Shabbaton was the wonderful and “rad” Rabbi Shmaya Friedman and his wife Aleza and two daughters. Shmaya and the staff then lead a reflective Kabbalat Shabbat where we took time to think about our past week and think about the Jewish aspects of our lives. After dinner, we got our Parsha on and learned about that week’s Parsha in style. We split into groups and adapted parts of the Parsha to modern day stories. Not to reveal everything, but the results were hilarious. #ParshaVa'yeitzi.
After a rejuvenating night’s sleep, we were all in Shabbos Mode and ready to Daven. Shmaya led an open and upbeat service, including everyone and allowing time for personal meditation. There was a mechitza because it was a traditional service, so Shmaya explained the origins of its meaning. This made us think about the ways in which gender seperation still does and does not apply to different groups of Jews today, according to their beliefs.  At the end, we broke out in song and dance, chanting David Melech Yisrael. To conclude Shabbat, we broke into small groups to meditate and then grouped together again for Havdalah. No matter what our Jewish upbringings were, our commonalities and Jewish cores united us all during this Shabbaton. It was a lot of fun and especially unique with the presence of Shmaya and his family. Thanks Rabbi Shmaya!

Sarah Gladstone (Brookline): Time flies when you are having fun.  Never once has that saying meant more to me than this past weekend on our first Diller retreat.  Who would have thought that one could say “bunny” so many times when playing a silly game, or that we would watch a crazy movie that challenged us to think outside the box just to decipher its meaning all in just one night?   And that was only a small portion of the crazy weekend that we had together.
On Saturday night, our wonderful leaders of the trip, Hannah and Hillel, led an activity.  We were to send a video to our Sister City Haifa to welcome them and to introduce ourselves.  After learning a little bit about Haifa, we decided to do a role call chant. Each one of us found a way to introduce ourselves in a rhyme (with a little bit of poetic license, of course).  It was filled with clapping and fun.  After that role call, we all chose an animal noise so that we could enact the video “what does the fox say?”  We had elephant noises and monkeys, wolves, snakes, and even a human noise.  Even the staff joined the fun by making the crazy noises of the fox along with the crazy dance moves.  It was a blast -- hopefully our fellows in Haifa enjoy watching it just as much as we enjoyed filming it!
But this weekend was about more than just having fun and going crazy.  It was about learning about each other and breaking down boundaries.  An activity on the last night commenced with each of us reflecting individually on all that we had done leading up to that night and what we hoped to keep gaining from it. Following our reflections, we were given blindfolds and were led in a line holding hands through the woods.  The fear of bumping into a tree or tripping over a root was overpowered by the sense of trust I had for the two people on either side of me who caught me when I stumbled. We were then led to a dark stage, and were told we should say one of our fears.  I do not know who the brave one was who spoke first, but after one person said their fear, we all dug deep down and threw out one of those fears that keep us up at night.  And they were all so genuine -- fear of one’s self or expectations or failure or sick loved ones.  We were then told to shout out something important and positive about ourselves while breaking a glow stick. We ended that activity with everyone giving each other a hug.  We had just made ourselves vulnerable, and we were now lending each other our support.