by a Bais Rivkah High School Student
I got onto the bus on Friday and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here I was, signing myself away for a weekend with no turning back. With this is mind, we rumbled off into the Catskill Mountains with the promise to return on Sunday. I didn’t understand the hype for Shabbaton. I didn’t get how it would be different from every other program the school makes. But I sure was in for a surprise. Because, from the moment I arrived till it was time to go back home, I was engulfed in an atmosphere I will never forget.
This weekend, Bais Rivkah High School had the most amazing shabbaton ever! Five hundred girls united together, singing, dancing, and breaking through boundaries.
The twelfth graders had gone to the hotel on Thursday and enjoyed some exclusive, fun-filled senior moments. When the buses pulled into the Raleigh Hotel on Friday afternoon, we were greeted by enthusiastic twelfth graders singing a welcome song- “Shabbatooon תשע”ח, let’s hear your spirit for the best one yet!” And when I and 477 other Bais Rivka girls walked out of the Raleigh Hotel on Sunday, we wished we weren’t. But although we were headed home, we knew that Shabbaton wasn’t over. What we learned during those three days will stay with us for a long time.
The weekend started with a carnival and ended with visiting the Ohel, and in between were never ending activities – farbrengens, glow painting, workshops, moon bounces, roundtable discussions, games, an hachlata auction, and so much more.
It was amazing to hear from people who had and have so many challenges and how they learned to break-thru with Simcha.
Hindy Markowitz, a 15 year old living in darkness, expressed how she learned to overcome the challenge she is living with. She doesn’t even consider her blindness a challenge when she was asked how she is helped with her challenges she replied, “What challenges!?”
The Rabbis who came to spend the weekend with us were brilliant and dedicated, sharing with us their stories and thoughts and answering the many questions we have. Rabbi Herman, Rabbi Estrin, Rabbi Avtzon, Rabbi Markowitz, and Rabbi and Mrs. Deren each stayed up till late into the night farbrenging. Chana Paltiel said, “I learned from Rabbi Estrin’s farbrengen that when you having a positive outlook on a challenge you can actually transform the challenge into something good.”
Getting to know our teachers and principals outside of the school environment by farbrenging and having discussions with them is something to cherish. Everyone dancing with achdus until the late hours of the night, all b’simcha, made us so proud and happy.The incredible feeling of being part of something so much greater than myself was overwhelming.
We got to know our friends so much better, and we took advantage of the opportunity to get to know other girls as well. It was incredible to be surrounded by so much positivity and so many friendly girls. All around, in every spot available, were girls talking, laughing, discussing, and enjoying each other’s company in a different setting with different perspectives. One of my friends said, “The school is a different place now; everyone is so united and together.”
When we boarded the busses to the Ohel, we were sad but happy at the same time. We were sad because we were leaving, but happy since we knew it wasn’t over – the friendships and growth will last for a long, long time. The mood was contemplative as we reported to the Rebbe what we had gained and the hachlatos we took on.
Thank you Mrs. Tiechtel, Mrs. Blau, Rabbi Stock, the school staff, 12th grade, and everyone else who made this weekend one to never be forgotten. A special thank you to all the parents who helped sponsor parts of Shabbaton. Can we have Shabbaton every year?
This weekend we all broke-thru our barriers with Simcha.
As Shani Azimov put it: “I felt the Bais Rivka pride so strongly! I’m so proud to be in this school!”
It was not just a weekend, it was a lifetime!