Congregation Beth Sholom (CBS) held its first annual shabbaton Nov. 3-5, and it was, by all accounts, a smashing success. More than 70 synagogue members and supporters gathered on the beautiful grounds of Camp Ramah in Palmer, Massachusetts, to enjoy a weekend full of prayer, learning, relaxation and, most of all, fun.
As the synagogue has grown in recent years, there was, according to CBS Rabbi Barry Dolinger, a greater need for people to get to know each other.
“This was the perfect opportunity,” he noted. “Our hope was that everyone would meet a few people they didn’t already know, and beyond that, people would better get to know people they already did know. And what better way to do that than through a retreat?”
A prayer service on Friday evening welcoming the Shabbat started the weekend. Then, a bit later, the adults gathered for a “Tisch,” an event in which people come together to sing, tell stories and discuss some Torah, over quality refreshments.
“It was lovely,” said synagogue president William Krieger, “to see everyone enjoying themselves, and each other. Some of the singing was just gorgeous, and soulful, and the two hours flew by.”
The extensive childcare and children’s programming were particularly valuable for the many families who attended. “The shabbaton committee was great in arranging for many teenagers to come,” said CBS vice-president and parent Brauna Doidge. “Not only were the teens able to participate with their families and their community, but they also provided wonderful babysitting that allowed the adults to enjoy other activities, and ran all the children’s programming. The kids all had a blast, all weekend long.”
Saturday, after a morning prayer service and lunch, there was a three-hour “free slot.” People played games, read, threw a football around, took walks through the beautiful grounds, or rested. At 4 p.m., there was a pair of one-hour classes (or conversations) to choose from, led by two CBS members. Shoshana Lew led a discussion of the land management and conservation issues raised by the Book of Genesis, while Andrew Pessin talked about the relationship between philosophy and religion.
Stephanie Hague, co-chair of the planning committee for the shabbaton, noted how pleased the committee was that Lew and Pessin agreed to lead the sessions. “We have so much expertise, so many professionals, so much intellectual capital within our community, it was wonderful to have a chance to learn from each other.”
For some, the highlight (among the many highlights) was the havdalah ceremony around the campfire Saturday night, followed by the mandatory s’mores along with singing accompanied by virtuouso guitarist and CBS member Steven Stein.
“It was beautiful,” noted the other committee co-chair, Miriam Abrams-Stark, “music under the stars, around the campfire, out in nature. Happily the weather cooperated! We can’t wait for next year!”
CBS is a modern orthodox congregation in Providence. Joining Hague and Abrams-Stark on the planning committee were Barbara Engler, Naomi Stein, Jess Larko and Bethany Slater. The shabbaton was partially funded by The Kallah Project, which has committed to providing funding for the annual shabbaton for the next two years.
Submitted by Congregation Beth Sholom