National Conference of Synagogue Youth’s local Shabbaton

 While we’ve had many regional events since social distancing has ended, we can’t possibly explain how excited our chapter was to finally be able to host our first local Cincinnati-Columbus Shabbaton in four years. Not only were the Cincinnati and Columbus chapters present, but chapters from every city in the Central East region sent a small group to join us, including members from Detroit, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. In the end we had over seventy teens present.

When we all arrived at the Shabbaton, we gathered in Shaarei Torah and welcomed Shabbat together. We all sang the prayers and joined with the community in dancing; it was truly beautiful to witness and participate in. Following prayers, we had a delicious meal prepared by Chef Ari Rubinoff. One of the things I love about NCSY mealtimes is that different teens have a chance to shine and share divrei Torah (words of Torah). We heard from two Cincinnati teens, a Columbus teen, and a Pittsburg teen over the course of the weekend. They each shared insights into either the parsha of the week or our Shabbaton theme, Unity. Two regional board members led a fun game of “Spill Your Guts Or Fill Your Guts.” The game goes like this: if someone doesn’t answer the question they are asked, they have to eat a variety of gross foods. It was entertaining because most people refused to answer the tricky questions and ate the unappetizing food. We then put on our new swag (reflective stringback bags) and walked to Congregation Zichron Eliezer for an Oneg, a communal hangout after the Friday night meal with little snacks and candies. There we heard from, Rabbi Lashak, currently a senior educator in National NCSY, former regional director of the NCSY Southwest region, founder of Yavneh Academy in Dallas, Texas and co-founder of NCSY in Latin America. In an interview format, he was asked what the craziest experience he ever had in NCSY was. He told a hilarious story about his experience flying a group of wild teenagers from Israel back to America who were almost arrested for putting their kosher meals into the microwaves (without taking off the foil) and creating mini fires on the plane. After an amazing night full of song, laughter, and meaningful moments, we headed to our host homes and got a good night's sleep for the next day of excitement. 

The following day was packed with activities, yummy food, and inspiring speeches. After prayers and lunch in the morning, Rabbi Goldschmidt of Shaarei Torah spoke to us. A key thing we learned from him was that no matter where you come from, we are all united and part of the Jewish nation. What stuck with me was his powerful call for unity, that the different types of Judaism should not differentiate and separate us. We should all support each other. He reminded us of the essential Jewish value of unity. Our lives as American Jews can be hectic, so it was refreshing to dive deeper into Judaism. After the speech, lunch, and menucha (rest time), we had a Q&A with Rabbi Lashak, who answered all of our questions and gave great advice to each of us on our individual lives. 

It was then time for Seudat Shlishit (the third Shabbat meal) where we enjoyed sushi and had a chance to pick a book and sit down and do a bit of Torah learning with one of the NY advisors that flew in to join us over the weekend. The NCSY advisors add so much ruach (fun spirit) to our Shabbatons and really spend their time making sure we are all having fun and gaining everything we can from the weekend. 

To conclude the Shabbat day, we had ebbing (singing) and Havdalah, which were (and always are) my favorite parts of the entire Shabbaton. We all assembled our chairs in a circle while advisor Ben Sadik stood in the middle and led the songs. The entire NCSY region came together to participate in song as we slowly said goodbye to Shabbat. I put my arms around my friends, closed my eyes, and really took in the words I was singing. It was a special moment. Singing together in NCSY is one of my favorite parts; it feels like magic when all of my peers gather around and share a beautiful moment of meaningful song. Then, Rabbi Lashak entered the middle of the circle and gave a short speech about the importance of being thankful and appreciating one another. He asked us to turn to the person on our right and express our gratitude and tell them, “You're my biggest hero.” This moment helped me to realize how grateful I am for my NCSY friends. Rabbi Lashak’s lesson gave me an appreciative lens to view the Shabbaton and beyond. 

On Saturday night, we went to Urban Air, a local trampoline park. In addition to the trampolines, there was a zip line, laser tag, and a ropes course. Getting to do these activities with my friends made me feel so lucky to be able to partake in NCSY and to be on the Shabbaton. I am grateful for the family and community NCSY has given me. We finished off the night eating pizza and saying goodbye to our friends. 

Again, thanks to the Rubinoffs, our chapter board, and the Cincinnati community of host homes, we were able to make this Shabbaton happen. This weekend was full of unity and unforgettable memories that I will cherish forever. There was a perfect balance of prayer, education, and fun. The life lessons I have learned throughout the weekend will stick with me forever. The friendships that were planted in my time in NCSY will only continue to grow and strengthen in the future.


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