In a momentous gathering the first weekend in March, 850 members of the SAR High School community, including students, faculty and their families, joined together for the schoolwide shabbaton. Amidst an intense 24 hours of thoughtful learning, spirited ruach, camaraderie and fun, all who attended shared a sense of gratitude and excitement to be a part of this truly unforgettable weekend.
“Our schoolwide shabbaton is both a unique and staple feature of the SAR High School experience, “ said Amanda Klatt, director of Student Activities. “Coming together as an entire high school community for a Shabbat is an incredibly powerful and enriching experience for all who attend. There are so many ways in which students and faculty build and strengthen relationships over the course of the weekend, and so many opportunities to strengthen one’s connection both to the school and to their Judaism. I am privileged to work with an incredibly talented group of people who make this amazing weekend possible.”
The weekend kicked off with a trip to Chelsea Piers in Stamford, where students engaged in ice skating, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, ultimate frisbee, batting cages, rock climbing and more. It was the perfect start to an exciting weekend spent together. Once at the hotel, the students gathered for lunch and watched a video spiel created by high school faculty introducing the shabbaton theme, “Thank You, Hashem.” As part of the yearlong theme of midot, the shabbaton focused on cultivating and acting upon the specific midah of hakarat hatov. In thought-provoking learning groups, students and faculty explored subcategories of this midah including authenticity, gratitude through action and the idea of holding multiple emotions.
Rabbi Tully Harcsztark addressed the entire community before Musaf. He pointed out that the Hebrew word for gratitude comes from the word “to recognize,” and spoke about the importance of seeing and acknowledging the value of others. At seuda shelishit, Rabbi Jonthan Kroll spoke about his experience donating a kidney, and the connection between gratitude and simcha, happiness. Both speeches inspired students and faculty alike. Rabbi Kroll noted that the Sefat Emet explains that as Adar begins, simcha is increased and people are also instructed to prepare their machtzit hashekel. The message is that the key to simcha is giving and sharing with others.
From beautiful singing at Kabbalat Shabbat, to spirited zemirot after each meal, a rocking tish on Friday night, to an incredible slow shira after seuda shelishit, followed by a truly amazing Havdala and chagiga, the shabbaton was filled with ruach. Shabbat afternoon was spent strengthening connections and interacting with friends and faculty and playing games, including a schoolwide competition of “Finish the Lyrics” led by the faculty and student choir. The high energy and spirit was palpable.
It was truly fortuitous to have the shabbaton coincide with Parshat Zachor. Everyone was able to fulfill this biblical mitzvah as a community of close to 850 people. You could hear a pin drop as the words were being leined, and it was a truly powerful moment for all.
“I really enjoyed the Shabbaton this year because I felt like the energy of this shabbaton was through the roof,” said sophomore Emily Friedlander of Riverdale.
“The Shabbaton was amazing because of the ruach present all throughout Shabbat and the fact that I was able to interact with my teachers and their families,” said senior Joseph Savenor from Manhattan.
While the lower grades cleared out after Shabbat ended, the seniors stayed on till Sunday to watch a renowned hypnotist perform for them all. They spent the rest of the night securing the bond they established throughout their years at SAR and relishing the fleeting time they have left together. It was a schoolwide shabbaton that will never be forgotten.