Fun, Friends and Spiritual Growth at Fall Convention 2019

Posted on October 2, 2019

Rachel Perera, a senior at Lafayette High School in St. Louis, never attended an NCSY Shabbaton – until now.

She was one of the 159 teens from throughout the Midwest who experienced the beauty and meaning of Shabbos at Fall Convention, held this year in Skokie, IL, Sept. 20-22, thanks to your generous support.

What did Rachel like most about  the Shabbaton?

“I can’t pick a favorite part because all of it was so memorable,” she says. “ But I enjoyed making friends, learning more about my own faith, and discovering a deeper part of my identity.”

Fall Convention began Friday morning with a joyous “reunion,” as teens from throughout the region met friends old and new at Kehillat Chovevei Tzion in Skokie, where the Shabbaton was based.

The teens then had a chance to have fun and get to know each other and their advisors at Whirlyball, the first activity aimed at building meaningful connections that would last through Shabbos and beyond. This was followed by Shabbos preparations, including pre-Shabbos ruach and an introduction to the educational theme of the Shabbaton, “Find Your Roar.” Throughout Shabbos, there were learning sessions on a variety of topics presented by NCSY staff and advisors, as well as special guests from the local community. Shabbos ended on a high with a spirited Havdalah, and the teens headed off for more fun at Dave and Busters.

Shai Kaszynski, a freshman at Deerfield High School in Illinois, is another first-time Shabbaton attendee. He called Fall Convention “super fun,” but like Rachel Perera, he says that it was more than just a good time.

“I really enjoyed the Shabbat experience,” he says. “And I also made a lot of new Jewish friends, which is awesome.”

Your support did more than just help inspire those teens who are new to Shabbatons. Even those who have attended multiple Shabbatons appreciated the opportunity to experience a meaningful Shabbos with friends and advisors from across the region. They say each Shabbaton is special and an opportunity to learn and grow – and this Shabbaton was no exception.

“The people who were there appreciated being there,” says Gavi Glickman, a senior at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Kansas. “And that’s an inspiring thing to see.”

Avi Bosin, a senior at Goldie Margolin School for Girls in Memphis, agreed, adding that for her personally, “this was a different Shabbaton entirely.”

“It allowed me to really appreciate Fall Shabbaton [even though I’ve attended] so many…  I really enjoyed the Havdalah dancing. The hundreds of voices made Motzaei Shabbos so uplifting.”

Shabbaton was so inspirational that it even spilled over onto NCSY staff.

Rabbi Yitz Staum, St. Louis Associate Director of Development, describes how he was able to experience the Shabbaton through the eyes of three public school teens who attend his JSU clubs – and who never experienced anything like Fall Shabbaton before.

“It was so uplifting to see how taken they were not only by the excitement and festive atmosphere, but also by the depth and perspective [they gained] about the beauty of Yahadus,” he says. “When I am privy to others being inspired by what I take for granted, it helps me be inspired as well.”

Captions: (Top) Rachel Perera (2nd from l.) experienced the beauty and meaning of Shabbos – and Judaism – at her first Shabbaton. (Middle) Teens enjoying the pre-Shabbos ruach. (Bottom) – Teens bond during a spirited Havdalah, for many the highlight of this unforgettable Shabbaton.