Edmonton Talmud Torah’s Grade 6 students enjoy Shabbaton at Camp BB-Riback

Grade 6 students from Edmonton Talmud Torah and Calgary Jewish Academy attended a wonderful Shabbaton at Camp BB-Riback last month. Photo courtesy ETT.

By Natalie Soroka

(AJNews) – June 7-9, 2024 was a weekend of bonding, learning, camaraderie and fun as Edmonton Talmud Torah (ETT) Grade 6 students participated in a Shabbaton at Camp BB-Riback in Pine Lake, Alberta. Our students were joined by a small but mighty group of Gr. 6 students from Calgary Jewish Academy (CJA). As part of Talmud Torah Society’s Hebrew Judaic program review this year, the Education Committee hoped this year’s Shabbaton would be a wonderful culminating experience for our students, where they would be immersed in the Shabbat experience.

The committee asked Moreh Ari Sniderman, a current and long-time teacher at TT, to lead and organize the weekend programming. Moreh Ari came with many ideas for programming from years at school, camp, and on previous Shabbaton weekends. Rabbi Krygier Lapides of Calgary’s Beth Tzedec Congregation volunteered her time for Friday night and Saturday morning Shabbat services. Her passion for Judaism and her love for teaching about our rich traditions was certainly evident at the Shabbaton.

Both ETT and CJA students, along with parent chaperones, drove to Camp BB-Riback arriving around 6 pm. First on the agenda was a traditional BB brisket and potatoes Shabbat dinner. With tummies full and happy, Moreh Ari and Rabbi Krygier Lapides provided an orientation along with expectations of the weekend. They explained the intention of having a Shabbaton, and why it is a meaningful experience.

The theme of the weekend was “We are All Ruth and Boaz,” which comes from the idea that, at the time of the Omer, Ruth and Boaz met and began their Jewish lives together. As Jews around the world were concluding the Omer and preparing to celebrate Lag B’Omer, this theme was especially fitting, as over the weekend the students were encouraged to reflect and discuss how their years of Jewish education have laid a rich foundation for Jewish knowledge and identity.

Following a tour of the camp, students celebrated Kabbalat Shabbat with songs and prayers. They then participated in ice breaker games, as well as signed up for the talent show, karaoke and Israeli dance. Afterwards it was off to the cabins for a chilly night’s sleep. Luckily, our amazing ETT parent volunteer drove to Red Deer to buy space heaters! Thanks Rebecca!

Following breakfast Saturday morning, Rabbi Krygier Lapides led Shabbat morning service, intertwining it with the theme of Ruth and Boaz. Students and parent chaperones were engaged and interested in the service, and there was lots of participation. After lunch the kids enjoyed some free time, playing the popular Jewish game “gaga,” an Israeli form of dodgeball, as well as some pick-up basketball.

In the evening, after dinner, Moreh Ari led a Havdallah service. The students especially enjoyed singing these prayers as he accompanied them on his guitar. Afterwards, the students participated in an entertaining talent show, as well as some enjoyable karaoke. It was clear from the evening activities that there may be some raw talent in this group.

After a late night, sleepy students met for breakfast the next morning. They then said their goodbyes, with many excited to see each other again soon at Camp BB-Riback’s summer camp. One ETT student who had never been to Camp commented to her mom that she definitely wants to go there next year!

The Shabbaton committee received much positive feedback about the weekend. Parent chaperones’ input included comments such as the following: great facilitation by Ari; very thoughtful choice of programming and discussion topics; wonderful balance between Jewish identity topics in the context of current events, as well as fun activities; fantastic services from Rabbi Krygier Lapides; great support by camp head Stacy [Shaikin] and kitchen staff; strong contribution from parent volunteers in helping with ancillary tasks and direct participation in programs.

ETT students were equally enthusiastic about their experiences and included feedback such as: It was awesome meeting kids from Calgary and playing games; I really enjoyed the Shabbat services and how Moreh Ari got us to think about Judaism and how our Jewish identities are connected to how we celebrate it; The talent show was so fun!; The drive up to camp was lots of fun too!; Sleeping in the cabins was really cold, but like a really big sleepover party!: I wish the weather was warmer, but it was still so much fun!

Moreh Ari stated, “I loved spending time back at Camp for such a meaningful program. My sincere thank you to Stacy, the camp staff, and the parent volunteers without whom this experience would not have been so impactful for the students.” Stacy Shaikin also commented that “it was a great weekend for the students to celebrate the Alberta Jewish community together. We hope to host this every year and make it a tradition.”

With grade 5 students hearing all the chatter amongst grade 6 students upon their return from the Shabbaton weekend, the fives are already pumped for their turn! The Talmud Torah Education committee is also hoping that this Shabbaton weekend will indeed become a new long-lasting tradition between the ETT and CJA.

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