Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Cohort 6 Self-Management Shabbaton

Cohort 6 Self-Management Shabbaton
February 6th-8th
Cohort 6 spent their second Shabbaton at Camp Ramah and the weekend was completeley run by the Fellows with some support from the staff. Rina Dale and Sam Epstein served as the "Leaders of the Shabbaton" which meant that they were in charge of planning the whole schedule, managing logistics, running their own programs, and supporting the other groups. We had sub committees of Rituals, Program, Maagal Lila, and Games and Bonding. We explored leadership multiple ways, and explored the question of whether leadership should be self-proclaimed or externally proclaimed. We also explored the concept of "followship" and used our Myers-Briggs tests and Leadership Compass results to help guide us!

Following are reflections by Fellows who served in different groups:

Sam Epstein (Co-Leader of the Shabbaton):
Last weekend I had the incredible opportunity to be one of our two Shabbaton leaders, along with my wonderful co-leader Rina Dale. With leadership being the main focus for our self management Shabbaton this was especially exciting. Our duties ranged from planning the daily schedule to checking in with other groups and making sure they had everything they needed to make the shabbat the most it could be. A safe, fun environment where we could learn about each other as leaders. Every moment after we stepped off the bus into the sharp winter air amazed me, seeing all of the planning we put in over the past two months come together into the exploration and learning opportunity it was. Our cohort is full of leaders, making every activity a learning opportunity about how people with different personalities can lead in different ways. This was the main focus of my program with Rina, where we explored our Myers Briggs personality test results using art therapy to discover more about our group dynamic and how we all can be leaders. In other programs where I was not in a leadership position and was being lead by other leaders, I discovered that in order to truly be able to lead, you first must learn how to follow. 

Channah Powell (Rituals Committee):

When Cohort 6 began the planning process of our second Shabbaton, I decided that I wanted to be part of the Ritual committee. I had written services before for my youth group, so I was really enthusiastic about exposing the cohort to the creative services that I often participate in through NFTY and my temple. As a group, the Ritual Committee decided that the theme of Mindfulness would link together the religious aspects of the Shabbaton. From there, the seven of us split into smaller groups in order to tackle each service. Rose and Aviva took on the task of writing a Kabbalat Shabbat service that would focus on multicultural mindfulness, Ben, Noah, and Daniel organized an Oneg about mindful eating, and Shachar and I wrote a Shabbat morning service about mindfulness and leadership. Although Shachar was completely enthusiastic about doing an alternative service, she had never been to one before. As I explained to her my experiences with creative ritual experiences, we bounced ideas off one another and developed a service that incorporated our individual ideas and skills. One particularly awesome thing we added to our service was a short discussion program in which we evaluated Moses as a leader. In leading this discussion, both Shachar and I had the opportunity to develop confidence and leadership skills. Being part of the Ritual Committee allowed me to explore my identity as a leader in a religious setting.        

Zoe Goldstein (Programs Committee)

Three months ago, when we began planning for the Shabbaton, it seemed crazy that I would actually be leading a program. I knew that as a member of the ‘programs’ group, I would be helping write and lead two programs, but after experiencing how amazing the first Shabbaton was, I was afraid I would not measure up. My group, to some degree, felt the same way. We thought of countless ideas but could never think of the perfect one. The plans for our programs—one about Jewish leadership, one about leadership in general—changed every time we met. This caused us to pour hours into the creation of our programs that in the end did not matter at all. However, going into the Shabbaton, my group felt that we had created the most interesting, exciting, and informative programs that we could, and this justified our drawn out creation process. Unfortunately, implementing the programs was a bit harder than we had anticipated, due to unavoidable changes in weather, timing, and people present. Additionally, my group found out (as we were running our programs) that we had put so much work into making the activities fun that we had neglected the discussion questions, which are arguably the most important part, as they explain the connection between the fun activity and the important lesson we are trying to teach the fellows. These two major problems taught us to be flexible and creative in both the creation and the implementation of our programs. Even without the problems, the programs gave us a new leadership experience—teaching a group of leaders how to lead with the assistance of other leaders. The number of times I used the word ‘lead’ in the previous sentence visually portrays how it felt to write and lead the programs. Everyone in my group had a different takeaway from this experience, but mine was that I learned that it is possible to be a follower and a leader at the same time. Before the Shabbaton, I had thought that it was only possible to either lead everything or lead nothing. Working with other leaders taught me that I cannot lead everything, but that I should never lead nothing.  

 Erica Morrissey (Maagal Lila Committee):

Shabbaton II, the time to prove ourselves as leaders. The second Shabbaton was planned and led 80% by the Fellows, and 20% by staff. This meant that the Fellows planned almost every aspect of the Shabbaton. We broke into groups and planned everything, from the schedule, to services, to bonding. My group took on the challenge of the Maagal Lilah on Friday night.
            The two of us spent a portion of each meeting to come up with a program that would allow Fellows to get to know each other on a personal level through guided questions. We wanted to build an interesting program that would allow everyone to speak without feeling pressured, and to reach outside of peoples’ comfort zones. Each planning meeting was a chance to bounce question ideas off of each other, and off other groups, talk to other Fellows to ask about any subjects they didn’t want to approach, etc. On days without meetings, there was always a text waiting with a new question to add, or idea of how to present them.
            Friday night, the night where my group’s hard work paid off couldn’t come soon enough. Leaving the previous program a few minutes early to set up, we were mentally ready. Pushing the sofas into a circle, shuffling papers into order, and deciding on last minute changes to the questions, we were physically ready. Excited Fellows burst into the room and leapt onto the cushions. It was time to begin.
            My group stood up and began our program with some common Step-Forward-Step-Back style questions. These soon transitioned into Boundary-Breakers, questions that are answered and interpreted individually, with no commentary from the others. These concluded with some synthesis questions in the same style, and closing remarks that reminded everyone that the room was a safe place, answers were not to be discussed outside, and that we hoped everyone was able to learn something about each other.
             Planning and leading such a pivotal program of the Shabbaton was such an experience. From this experience of an 80%-20% Shabbaton, I feel much more confident in my leading abilities. I realized during this Shabbaton, that sometimes the most important part of leadership is listening to those around you. Within a discussion, listening to someone without commenting can form a deeper connected as they feel more needed and wanted. It can help someone who is struggling to fit in, find his or her spot within a group. A leader doesn’t just give instructions, they listen, get feedback, and help everyone to feel comfortable.

Eitan Galper: (Games Committee):

Prior to this week’s Shabbaton, two other fellows and I worked very hard to plan two activities relating to games and bonding. From these two programs, we wanted everyone to have opportunities to step out of their comfort zone and have a chance to lead the rest of their group. We hoped that our fellow fellows would have fun and bond together through our activities. For our first program, we ran an “Iron Chef” simulation where each group of 3-4 people needed to create an appetizer and an entree entirely out of candy. The other program, titled “Alien Invasion” was a leadership game where every group has to build a capsule to protect an egg when it is dropped from a high height. In each group, one person is blindfolded, one person can’t speak, and one person can’t touch the materials. Everyone has to participate in their own way.

            It was a great experience for us to put all of our hard work into action. Everyone had a lot of fun! We definitely learned a lot while leading the activities and how we can improve for future programs. For example, we noticed that, in the egg drop activity, the person who was blindfolded ended up not participating as much as we thought they would. This taught all of us an important lesson. One of the most important parts of leadership is making everyone feel that they are included and that they have an important role in accomplishing the goal of the group. I can’t wait to apply what I learned to planning activities for future Shabbatons!