This week, Yeshivat Frisch accomplished its most ambitious and amazing feat yet: Shiriyah. From the beginning of the year, students, parents and faculty alike could only speculate whether this magical part of the Frisch experience would be possible, in light of the pandemic. But, with clearance and advance planning in communication with the Frisch medical committee, the dream became reality.
The entire student body, along with the school’s armed security guards and approximately 40 faculty members, embarked on a five day, school-wide trip to Camp Moshava from Friday, May 21 to Tuesday, May 25. However, as the buses pulled out of the Frisch parking lot on the way to Pennsylvania, the fact that Shiriyah would be at the heart of the trip was still a closely guarded secret. What the students knew was that they were going away for an extended school shabbaton, with a full schedule of sports, games, activities and, of course, meaningful sessions and learning.
Health precautions were undertaken in advance. By this point, over half of the student body had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Students who were not yet two weeks past the second dose were asked to take care and not be indoors with others beyond their family for a week prior to the trip, and were tested for COVID on Wednesday prior to departure. Happily, not a single person tested positive. A school-wide bubble was thus created, and the joy and excitement at Camp Moshava was palpable.
The great surprise—Shiriyah “breakout”—was set for Motzei Shabbat. Over 900 students and faculty gathered on the Moshava courts to hear the unmistakable announcement: “She’s here!”
“Breakout was crazy!” said freshman Gabriella Greenberg. “My heart was beating so fast and by the end of the night I could barely catch my breath. The fireworks, the video, the excitement, it was all so overwhelming but in the best way.”
The next 72 hours passed in a whirlwind of creativity, collaboration, hard work and incredible fun.
The location may have been different, but students reported that it still felt the way Shiriyah always had, and care was taken to bring all the necessary supplies to camp—for the music, hallway creations, raft making, Rube Goldberg machines, art murals, videos, stomp routines, escape room creations and more. Shiriyah culminated in presentations, as well as a musical extravaganza on Tuesday night, which was live-streamed on the Frisch website. (Glimpses of the Shiriyah magic from throughout the week can be found on the school’s Facebook and Instagram pages.)
Frisch Principal Rabbi Eli Ciner emphasized the educational importance of overcoming the obstacles to make the program happen this year. “Frisch was able to be creative and think outside the box to hold our regular Shiriyah, but at Moshava,” said Rabbi Ciner. “Shiriyah is an integral part of our community and we wanted to show the students that you can have a pandemic that forces you to think differently, and that you can adapt, persevere and create an experience that is, in a way, even more special.”
Rabbi Ciner also drew attention to the tremendous dedication and generosity of the many faculty members who spent five whole days away from their own families in order for the program to run.
The program was planned and implemented by Frisch's Assistant Principal Rabbi David Goldfischer. "Only somebody like Rabbi Goldfischer, a brilliant leader who combines Torah scholarship, empathy, and creativity, could have dreamt of something like this past week," said Rabbi Ciner.
Students and parents were blown away by the fact that Frisch managed to pull off Shiriyah, and expressed deep appreciation to the school for making it happen. They were excited to talk about their experiences.
For freshmen, Shiriyah afforded an opportunity to bond as a grade in ways that were impossible for much of the year. “I love the dynamic of my two favorite things—Shiriyah and camp!” said Greenberg. “I can make new friends while making a stomp or just hanging out and beading. Having Shiriyah feels like a dream come true. I’ve been watching shiriyah for years, and the fact that I can participate in it is just incredible, especially during this crazy year.”
Jack Fischer, who is a junior, also noted how Shiriyah facilitates friendships across the school. “Shiriyah is the best because it’s just the most friendly environment and everyone gets to spend time together, and there’s a lot of unity between the grades,” he said. His favorite part of Shiriyah, he said, are the team meetings, where the entire grade gets totally into their songs.
Parents followed the festivities and chimed in on social media. “I am SO proud @frischschool! Yashar koach on this fantastic idea!” wrote one parent. Another wrote: “Thank you FRISCH!!!! This is just what they need - this is what we all need!!!”
Shiriyah usually takes place in January. But for the graduating senior class, this year’s program, taking place at the end of May, will mark the conclusion of their time at Yeshivat Frisch. “I think that because we’re not in a school environment, we are able to all connect on a different level,” said senior Gabrielle Green. “Seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces is so nice. All the Frisch Shiriyah activities are all happening in a different way, but are still exciting, new and fun. This was the best way to end my four years at Frisch.”