July 25, 2024
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RKYHS Seniors Spend Shabbos in Lake Hopatcong

RKYHS senior Joey Kirsch has been spending shabbos in Lake Hopatcong for as long as he can remember. His father, RKYHS faculty member Rabbi Richard Kirsch, is the winter rabbi at the Lake Hopatcong Jewish Community Center and spends one shabbos a month at the shul from November through May each year. The community is small, with less than a minyan of committed synagogue-goers attending on any given shabbos. When Rabbi Kirsch comes, he brings the minyan with him. Kirsch, along with “adult” sons (over 13) Joey and Jonathan and their friends, round out the minyan at the synagogue and help infuse the membership with joy and “yiddishkeit.”

During Joey’s tenure at RKYHS, he decided to expand the group that he and his father brought with them to Lake Hopatcong each month. He and some friends decided to organize shabbatons, which would provide bonding experiences for different groups at the school as well as bring minyanim to the shul on a monthly basis. For the past several years, they have held grade-wide boys’ shabbatons, which eventually expanded into shabbatons for other grades and sports teams, like the boys’ soccer shabbaton which was held last month. The synagogue members are always grateful when the students come, bringing with them minyanim and excitement.

At the start of his senior year, Joey decided that a perfect end to his RKYHS and Lake Hopatcong experiences would be to combine them into a grade-wide senior shabbaton, held during the last shabbos his dad would be at the Lake Hopatcong shul during his senior year. Joey, along with seniors Eytan Shamsian, Jonathan Pedoeem, Aviva Kahn, and RKYHS student body president Mia Lang, spent several months planning and organizing all the details necessary to make the shabbaton a success. They handled everything, from collecting money, to buying and ordering food, to providing packing lists, to organizing activities. Rabbi Kirsch organized the transportation.

This past shabbos, Shabbat HaGadol, the RKYHS senior class held their long-anticipated senior shabbaton. Chaperoned by numerous RKYHS faculty members, the grade descended on the Lake Hopatcong JCC with excitement at the prospect of spending a shabbos together. The experience was exactly what Joey had hoped for—the class participated in a beautiful kabbalat Shabbat led by Rabbi Kirsch, and then shared an amazing Chinese dinner courtesy of Woxx in West Orange, followed by delicious desserts contributed by various parents. There were zemirot and bonding activities designed to provide a lifetime of memories for these graduating seniors.

Shabbos morning brought the few synagogue “regulars” into the building, where they were greeted warmly by students. After a davening in which many of the students participated—Joe Berger and Eytan Shamsian read the Torah; Josh Degen, Effie Auman, Josh Lowenstein, Jonny Pedoeem and others helped lead services—the senior class was treated to an interesting and time-relevant talk by synagogue member Leon Bonen. He spoke of his experiences living in Egypt under President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and compared it to the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The students commented that his words will help make their Passover experiences this year that much more meaningful. After this discussion, the students enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by senior Ben Wagner, more zemirot and an afternoon of bonding.

The shabbaton culminated with havdallah, followed by a bonfire and kumzitz, with guitar music provided by senior Scott Tajfel, with many photographs taken that would of course be shared on social media instantly, recording this wonderful shabbos for posterity.

“I’m just so happy we were able to put this all together,” said Joey. “It makes me feel good that I was able to combine two things that have been so important to me into one special and memorable shabbos.”

Rabbi Kirsch commented, “I really love the way the kids came together to make this happen. At RKYHS, we work with students to help them accomplish things that are important to them. Whether starting a new chug (club) or sports team, running a particular trip, bringing in a certain speaker, or organizing a special shabbos like this one—the school strives to support students to help them reach their goals.”

By Jill Kirsch

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