Friday, November 21, 2014

Cohort 6's First Shabbaton!

The Diller Teen Fellows of Cohort 6 have reflected on their first Shabbaton, which took place from November 14-16, 2014 at Camp Ramah in Palmer, MA. To see a full album of photos from the retreat, please click here.

Nick Ornstein (Watertown) on the Shabbat experience:

The new chill in the air on that fall weekend did not stop the us, Cohort 6 of the Diller Teen Fellows of Boston, from celebrating a meaningfully spiritual Shabbat at Camp Ramah this past weekend during our Shabbaton from Friday, November 14th to Sunday, November 16th.  Soon after completing the hour and a half drive from the JCC in Newton to Palmer, MA, we settled in for a weekend of learning, spirituality, and fun.

            At 4:11, it was time to light the Shabbat candles. Dressed all in white to welcome the Sabbath "bride", we learned about an interesting candle lighting tradition from Aliza Friedman, the wife of Shmaya Friedman, the wonderful rabbi affiliated with our cohort of fellows here in Boston. The tradition was very moving: instead of lighting the usual two large candles, each person lit their own personal mini-candle, making Shabbat feel even more personal. After this, we headed to the synagogue at the camp, where Shmaya lead us in a traditional orthodox Friday night service. The experience was intriguing for all the fellows, and personally I enjoyed it because it was very different from the Friday night services at my temple. I attend a reform synagogue in Belmont, so being part of an orthodox service where the men and women sat on separate sides of the Mechitza (barrier), and where we read the prayers with Ashkenazi pronunciations, was a special experience that definitely broadened all of our horizons. In accordance with keeping Shabbat by not doing anything considered to be work, it was a technology free Friday and Saturday, a liberating break from social media’s constant pull.

 Saturday morning, Aliza and Shmaya lead another service, but instead of reading more prayers, the cohort explored the meaning of praying itself, through a discussion-based Torah study session. Delving deep into the meaning of the Parsha of the weekend, Chayei Sarah, we thought hard about the lessons that the story of Abraham has to teach.

            Later that day, Liana Mitman, the dedicated Manager of Teen Programming at the JCC in Newton, and also our Boston Diller coordinator, lead us through a program where we walked down to a pond the camp, and thought about G-d in nature. We each shared occasions where we were amazed by the natural world, while looking out onto a beautiful view of the hills behind the pond. On the way back to our meeting place, this program inspired a deep conversation between myself and another Fellow about finding G-d in modern day science.

To culminate a fantastic Shabbat experience, some our fellows lead their very own Havdalah service, a song-filled celebration of a great week passed, and a great week to come (Sh’vuatov!). All in all, it was a wholesome, spiritual, eye -opening religious experience to attend my first Shabbaton with the other Boston Diller Teen Fellows.

Rose Lovy (Concord) on Maagal Lila: 
Our first retreat was packed with firsts: our first meals together, our first Shabbat together, our first time leading workshops, and our first Maagal Lilahs. Maagal Lilah translates to “Night Circle”, and is the last formal program of the day. After a packed schedule of workshops and activities Maagal Lilah is an opportunity to reflect on the day and learn about each other. This weekend, our Maagal Lilahs focused on the weekend’s pillar of exploring and building trust.
On Friday night, we discussed trust in relation to our own lives. Each fellow shared their degree of willingness to trust others and told personal stories about times when they have felt trusted or trusted someone else. This was the first personal discussion of the Shabbaton, allowing us to start programs on Saturday with a better understanding of one another. During our second Maagal Lilah we put our newly minted bonds to the test. Our JC’s instructed us to close our eyes and then moved us into a line. After joining hands we were led on a long, circuitous walk through the cold forest. We had to navigate around stumps, up hills, and past branches with nothing but each other’s breath and our own thoughts for company. After what seemed like an eternity we were led inside and given glow sticks. After sharing our fears and goals with the group in darkness, we cracked the glow sticks and headed towards a bonfire together, still connected even though we had released each other’s hands. This exercise proved just how much we had come to trust and lean on each other after just a few days.
                While the Maagal Lilahs were the most explicit discussion of trust during the Shabbaton, the entire weekend was, in itself, focused on trust. We had to trust the group to respect our opinions, and we had to trust ourselves to communicate our thoughts effectively. Many of us explored the idea of whether we trust naturally or if trust needs to be earned. From deep discussions about individual spirituality to just hanging out by our bonfire, every moment of the weekend was a test of how comfortable we were with the group. This constant process bonded our group more quickly than I could have imagined, and I can’t wait to continue to build on this trust as the year progresses.

Rina Dale (Newton) on programming: During cohort 6’s first shabbaton, we took part in many programs, from all of which I gained something different. One of the workshops we did which I found to be a highlight wasThe Jelly Bean Activity. Each of the fellows were given a cup with a question on it, and a small
bag filled with three different colors of jelly beans. Each person would say the question on their cup, and list out the three options we were given to answer it. Each answer had a specific colored jelly bean which we dropped in the cup as it was passed to us. Early on in the activity, the questions were very “light”, such as “what is your favorite social media site”. As the program progressed, the questions went deeper, and so did the thinking. The topics included abortion rights, gay rights, and feminism. The group discussed with focus, and drive. In that span of time, I had managed to form complete and new opinions about subjects I had never thought about.
 A humorous, yet informative program we had was led by our two leaders of the retreat.
Seeing as we will be traveling to Haifa in the coming summer, the two of them found it fit to plan a program whose purpose was to learn about Haifa. In the style of NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!, the program had us laughing, and learning. We were able to get so much out of the program because we weren’t just having facts thrown at us - it was interactive and interesting. 
The program that I personally gained the most from was a discussion based workshop about G-d. There were posters put up all around the room, all saying “G-d” on them, but in different manners. For example, one sign said “G-d!” while another said “G-d?”. Each person went to the poster they could relate to most, and discuss with the other members at your poster why you were there. In my case, I went to the poster that said “G-d...”. During this discussion, I felt honored to be partaking in one of the most insightful conversations I had ever been in. When we all came together to share what we talked about, I was glad to see that everyone had had the same experience as I. Each of us finished the program, appreciating the safe space we were given to share our beliefs and ideas.

Daniel Goldstein (Newton) on the Haifa Young Leaders Visit and bonding:

On our first shabbaton, one of the main focuses was to get to know each other and to bond as a group. We had many activities solely designed for that goal. These activities encompassed both pushing people out of their comfort zones like getting pudding fed to them by a blindfolded person, and just hanging out around a campfire and becoming more comfortable with each others company. The bonding went extremely well, as I can now definitely say that I truly call my fellow fellows my friends.

It felt quite awesome to truly become a group over this weekend. Before the shabbaton, I felt awkward sitting next to some people that I didn’t know so well. Now that we are all closer, and more of a cohesive group, I don’t feel awkward around any other fellow. That is a feeling that is very hard to come by nowadays in the overly judgmental society we live in. I feel blessed to be in this group with all these amazing people. Its so nice to have all these new friends, and to look forward to all the fun Diller programs in the future.

The visit from the Haifa entrepreneurs was great and so interesting. They were very impressive, and I loved hearing about the things each of them are doing in Haifa. One of the particularly interesting projects was an app that monitors air pollution street by street. Right now it’s only in Israel, but he is planning on expanding to the US within the year. We all really appreciated the effort the Haifans made to be with us during our shabbaton.