Shabbaton: A Time to Connect With Community and Judaism

One highlight of Gann’s recent Shabbaton was an intimate discussion between seniors and Head of School Rabbi Marc Baker that went into the wee hours of the morning. There was also a crazy international-themed relay race, great food, a moving Havdalah service, and a fascinating talk by two activists — a Yemeni threatened by extremists and the American Jew who helped him escape.

Just another jam-packed Shabbaton at Gann Academy. The 26-hour event—each grade has one annually—is about making connections outside the classroom and off the playing field, in an event that is both spiritual and playful.

“Shabbat has a way of clearing away a lot of the distractions of the week—and the Shabbaton creates the opportunity for students to deepen their relationships with each other, especially with kids they don’t normally hang out with, and with staff too.” says Rabbi Jethro Berkman, Dean of Jewish Education. “And there are very special moments of transcendence, created through the wisdom of our tradition.” One such moment at late January’s Shabbaton occurred at the Havdalah ceremony, with its unspoken acknowledgement that this would be the last Shabbat seniors would spend together as a group. “We had the candles lit and everyone was singing together arm in arm. It was a sweet and poignant moment,” recalls Rabbi Berkman.

For Perry Wallack '17, the Shabbaton is a time when students’ shared identity as Jews—so present it is almost an afterthought most days—is given full expression. “Being together for Shabbat is a way that we acknowledge that we’re connected on this deeper level,” says Wallack. “There are no phones, no contact with the outside world. It’s really cool to have this.”
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