Forty-one students from a variety of backgrounds and schools came together to be inspired by Shabbat at the Wildfire Shabbaton in Kawartha, Ontario. With Rabbi Josh Stein, City Director of Thornhill, and Tzvi Tabakman and Milka Beker, NCSY Junior Program Coordinators, the students from grades 6 to 8 were put in the right frame of mind, listening to stories as sundown ushered in the Shabbat. Tzvi related a moving story about a boy, who, faced with a trail of either desecrating the Shabbat for personal gain or keeping it at great financial loss, chose the latter, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of the significance of Shabbat.
The students broke out in singing and dancing before gathering for the Friday night dinner. The kids then played an interactive game, acting out the 10 plagues in preparation for Pesach, before ending the evening with more songs and stories.
Boys and girls proceeded to Shacarit, the first prayer of the day. For those who wanted an alternative, there were two programs to choose from: one, an exciting game where they learned about the value of connecting to Hashem, and the other, a class about proper respect and the beauty of the human eye.
This was wrapped up by a delicious ice cream Kiddush. After the break, the older students taught the younger students about the different types of freedom that one can experience.
The sounds of laughter amidst games and songs filled the air as Shabbos ebbed away. On Motzei Shabbat, the grade 8 students built a bonfire with everyone joining in an incredible bonding experience.
The boys and girls went on a bus ride to a forest where they enjoyed the thrill of treetop trekking, zip lining, and swinging from ropes. After hours of fun and, more importantly, connecting with the spirit and meaning of Shabbat, the kids came home with a new appreciation for their relationship with Judaism.
The Wildfire Shabbaton was one of the most inspiring NCSY shabbatons I have ever attended. I read the Torah on Shabbat morning, and this was the biggest Torah portion I have read since my bar mitzvah. This is just one example of how NCSY gives us opportunities that we would have not otherwise get. I hope I have the opportunity to go on more.–Hillel Freiheit