“Free shabbat meals_ tefilla_ games_ learning_ and prizes” read by lonyoo


									Afula Children's Shabbaton
Aryeh Young
"Free Shabbat meals, Tefilla, games, learning, and prizes," read the advertisement in Afula, an impoverished city in the Galil region of northern Israel. The kids, ages 6-12, were ecstatic; a first-ever Shabbaton, in a city notorious for its poverty-stricken slums, would be coming to their neighborhood. Many of the Shabbaton attendees would be from Beit Sefer Orot, a religious elementary school, primarily for irreligious kids at which the Shabbaton was heavily advertised. In addition, twenty other kids from throughout Afula signed up as a result of public advertising in major stores. Meanwhile, a group of twenty Kerem B'Yavneh talmidim filled with unimaginable ambition eagerly began arranging the Shabbat of a lifetime; a Shabbat filled with endless fun, educational programs, and delicious food. Just one week after initial preparations commenced, a minibus filled with twenty tired Kerem B'Yavneh boys pulled up to the curb in Afula at Beit Sefer Orot early Friday afternoon. A mixture of anticipation and apprehension loomed in the air. Despite having stayed awake into the wee hours of the night preparing for Shabbat, they jumped off the bus and barged into the classrooms filled with exuberance, ruach, and of course, plenty of candy to go around. All twenty madrichim went from classroom to classroom, meeting soon-to-be Shabbaton participants, listening to the kids show off their learning, their songs, and tossing out countless toffees in return. The Madrichim and kids exchanged names, as well as laughs, as they crowded together around madrich Jeremy Bekritsky to imitate different animals, as they waited for the school bus. The kids were then reminded to all be back at five o'clock for the pre-Shabbat festivities. The kids were excited beyond our wildest dreams; it was now our job to provide them with a Shabbat experience they would never forget. The kids were soon dismissed from school and we began the pre-Shabbat preparations. The large duffel bags stuffed with food, prizes, games, and other Shabbaton essentials needed to be hurriedly unpacked and organized. The madrichim davened mincha and then quickly divided into two teams and began preparations for two separate Shabbatonim. Kids from the Givat HaMoreh neighborhood would be attending a Shabbaton at Beit Sefer Orot, and students from the other side of town would have their own Shabbaton in Afula Illit. 12 madrichim remained at Beit Sefer Orot, while the other eight shuttled off to Afula Illit to set up. About 70 kids, primarily from irreligious families were expected to show up; and time was running out!

Our first participant came in search of fun over two hours early, arriving before 3:00 PM. And within the hour, the other kids begin to follow. At Beit Sefer Orot they flocked through the school gates; a few were brought by parents, but most just wandered in alone or in small groups of friends. "They just kept on coming, more and more of them. It was so hectic and made us madrichim extremely nervous. We didn't know most of their names, and we really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we tried not to let the kids sense our nervousness. Most of us were inexperienced and there were more than sixty little kids to look after; but we just tried to make sure each participant was getting personal attention," explained madrich Ariel Nacson. The kids gathered on the sports court for pre-Shabbat icebreaker games of musical chairs, tag, and various ball games. "It was like just one long recess, my favorite part of the day," said Dekel, an eight-year old Ethiopian girl. We remained on the sports court for Kabbalat Shabbat and sang Lecha Dodi together. At Arvit, the kids who attended Beit Sefer Orot excitedly flaunted their knowledge of tefilla, screaming the entire kriat shema at the top of their lungs. Although getting sixty hyper Israeli kids to gather quietly for instructions for games, pre-Shabbat stories, and tefilla had been an indescribable challenge, when we announced seudat Shabbat the kids rushed into the small classroom/makeshift dining room where a U-shaped table was set with a place for each kid. Each kid received his own grape juice and personal lechem mishna. A third-grader from Beit Sefer Orot approached one of the madrichim and asked why the table (set with inexpensive plasticware) was set for Pesach or Rosh Hashana. Although it wasn't Pesach or Rosh Hashana, a feast it was! The kids were treated to a gala Shabbat dinner of pitas, salads, borekas, rice, potato kugel, and shnitzels – most of which was both catered and sponsored by Kerem B'Yavneh and the "Ohev Shalom V'Rodef Shalom" Program. Throughout the meal, well-known songs were enthusiastically screamed, as madrichim and kids shouted and danced together, jumping on chairs. The kids ate and ate until they were stuffed. Although they thought they could eat no more, when they saw the ice cream stand, their mouths began to water once more. Different flavors of ice cream combined with chocolate chips, colored and chocolate sprinkles, cookie crumble, chocolate syrup, and of course, the classic cherry-on-top were perfect for a "design-your-own-ice-cream-cone" station that brought shouts of glee to every kid (and madrich). Birkat HaMazon was then fervently recited aloud in unison and each kid was accompanied home to his/her door after splitting into small walking-groups. According to madrich Michael Apfel, "Walking the kids home was one of the most meaningful and eye-opening parts of the Shabbaton. Not only did we get to speak to the kids in small groups and really get to know them on a more personal level, but we also saw the many of the difficulties that these kids have to endure. It gave us a lot to think about." As we walked the kids home, it was clear from their feedback, as well as, their anticipation of the next morning, that a Shabbat of a lifetime had begun. Although

many of them learned about Shabbat at school, most of the kids never encountered Torah experiences outside school hours. Therefore, a true Shabbat was a regular absence in their lives. A lot of kids related how their Shabbat was usually the most boring day of the week, with nothing to do except sit around the house or wander through the streets. Perhaps, the joy and excitement experienced Friday night was most evident when a couple of fourth-grade boys Perhaps, the joy and who had already been walked home, wandered excitement experienced back to us at 11:00 PM "to help us clean up." While Friday night was most a couple of Madrichim sat and shmoozed with evident when a couple of them, the rest of the Madrichim began discussing fourth-grade boys who had how to make the Shabbat day program even already been walked home, better. As we brainstormed, several madrichim wandered back to us at 11:00 made kiddush, finally beginning their Shabbat PM "to help us clean up." seuda at midnight, having been too busy, helping kids and then walking them home, to find time for a quick bite to eat. This was just one small-scale example of the mesiras nefesh displayed by the madrichim. Although about only twenty participants showed up at the Shabbaton location in Afula Illit, over sixty had flooded in to Beit Sefer Orot in the Givat HaMoreh neighborhood. The plan for the next day was for the madrichim from Afula Illit to walk their kids over to Givat HaMoreh to have one big Shabbaton. We all went to sleep absolutely exhausted, but the next morning we awoke refreshed with renewed energy. Shabbat morning activities began at 1:30 PM with a cold-cut deli lunch and plenty of singing. Although many of the kids knew about netilas yadayim, a quiet seven year-old girl from a secular school who had not been their the night before, was being taught to wash for the first time. Her on-looking mother who had just dropped her daughter off thoughtfully remarked, A quiet seven year-old girl from a "These religious things are really secular school who had not been their important and she really doesn't know the night before, was being taught to much; it would probably be a good idea if wash for the first time. Her on-looking I sent her to the religious school next mother who had just dropped her year." Meanwhile, kids made their own daughter off thoughtfully remarked, sandwiches and once again took to the "These religious things are really chairs for dancing and fun. Lunch passed important and she really doesn't know quickly and after a second thunderous much; it would probably be a good Birkat HaMazon we divided the boys and idea if I sent her to the religious girls into two separate groups for school next year." activities. The boys began the afternoon with a high-spirited game of bingo. As madrich Aryeh Young picked out bingo numbers, he announced the numbers with suspenseful Torah-oriented questions; "How many days do we count in sefirat haomer?" (pause) "Number 49!" Prize bags stuffed with candy and snack food were continually being awarded and many joyous kids walked out with enough after-school snacks to a while. Later, in the day, a madrich asked a fourth-grade boy if the candy he'd received during bingo was enough to last a month, the happy winner replied, "It's more than I'd ever get in a whole year!" Following bingo, the boys divided into five small groups for learning. Since the Parshat HaShavua, Parshat Emor discussed the different chagim, the boys rotated between five stations. Each station was manned with a madrich, more candy, and fun-filled learning. Each kid got to learn and answer questions about Shabbat, Succos, Pesach, Shavuos, and Rosh Hashana. The boys then had "ball time" on the sports court before Seuda Shlishit. Meanwhile, after an intense game of "Gaga," the girls had their turn at thrill, chance, and prizes in the bingo room,

followed by their own learning groups with the same holiday-oriented curriculum, designed by madrich Rael Blumenthal. The Shabbat afternoon activities concluded with a dessert-only seuda shlishit, and the kids once again flocked to the makeshift dining room one last time. Cakes, cookies, crackers, bamba, rugelach, Coca-Cola et al. were heaped on every table. There was so much, the kids couldn't even eat up all of the dessert – they were too stuffed from the cold-cut lunch followed by the 24/7 distribution of sweets throughout the afternoon. At Seuda Shlishit the madrichim and kids joined forces to create the highest ruach level seen yet over Shabbat. Every kid in the dining room was on their feet, (or chair or table) singing at the top of their lungs, repeating words, motions, and dances after Ruach leader, Rael Blumenthal. The deafening roar of 80 voices in unison rocked the room as we sang "Anachnu maaminim," "Yachad, yachad" as well as, other madrich-made melodies. Parents were instructed to meet their kids between 6:00 – 6:30, but at 7:00 only three parents had come to pick up kids; each coming to ask if we would be returning the following week. About forty kids were still left, refusing to leave. It was too much fun to just go home; but Shabbat was coming to an end and it was time to once again divide into walking groups and make sure each kid was returned home safely before dark. As we As we walked the kids home, walked the kids home, the one question on the the one question on the kids' kids' minds was unanimous. Although the minds was unanimous. Although parents could wait until next week, all the kids the parents could wait until next wanted to know was, "Will you be coming back week, all the kids wanted to tomorrow?" Although we all knew that tomorrow know was, "Will you be we'd be back in Yeshiva, we savored our last coming back tomorrow?" moments, taking in the smiles on each and every kid's face – the smiles were the acknowledgement, our reward, for putting every ounce of energy into the last twenty-four hours. After Shabbat, we spent a few hours cleaning up (with the help of five kids who returned to help and did not leave until almost midnight). We made Havdalah, davened maariv, and at 12:30 finally set out for Yeshiva. We returned to Yeshiva at 2:15 AM and twenty sleep-deprived Yeshiva guys dragged themselves off the bus, carrying the now-empty duffel bags and coolers back to the dorms. It had been a special Shabbat indeed – one of responsibility, education, life-lessons, role modeling, and compassion. All we had left were our memories. For us they will undoubtedly linger. For the kids of Afula, hopefully the experiences shared and lessons learned from the Shabbat with twenty KBY guys will not be forgotten; at the very least remembered until next year's KBY/Afula Shabbaton, Afula 5767 (2007).


First and foremost the madrichim from Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh, the heart of the Shabbaton: Each of whom donated their own personal money, time, and sweat and then slept a night on the floor in order to make this Shabbaton a success – Michael Apfel (Los Angeles, CA), Jeremy Bekritsky (Chicago, Il), Rael Blumenthal (Johannesburg, S. Africa), Ben Dalin (Santa Monica, CA), Zev Fuchs (Teaneck, NJ), Chesky Gross (Petach Tikvah, Israel), Steve Fredman (Johannesburg, S. Africa), Robbie Ickowitz (London, UK), Yisroel Mostovich (Antwerp, Belgium), Ariel Nacson (Toronto, Canada), Pinchas Nadler (Passaic, NJ), Adam Noble (New York), Dani Paliakoff (Baltimore, MD), Yoni Podolock (Beit Shemesh, Israel), Alex Puddles (Lakewood, NJ), Effie Richmond (Teaneck, NJ), Yoni Segal (London, UK), Yossi Steinberger (Monsey, NY), Aryeh Young (Seattle, WA), and Sasha Zakharin (Cherryhill, NJ). Second, Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavneh: Thank you to the entire Kerem B'Yavneh administration, especially Mr. Eli Klein for the financial backing in making this Shabbaton such a success. This Shabbaton was also sponsored by the "Ohev Shalom V'Rodef Shalom" Program, dedicated by Rabbi Dr. Kenneth and Dr. Tamy Chelst. Without your assistance, the Shabbaton would have only remained a dream and never have become a reality. Of course, thanks to Master Chef Yossi Goldenberg for preparing unbelievable shabbos meals for the kids and us. Third, the Afula crew. Thank you Rabbi Gold for all of the technical coordinating and answering your phone twenty times a day, and ensuring the local Shabbaton publicty. You and your staff were terrific! Also, Beit Sefer Orot Principal Rabbi Malka, Rabbi Greenstein in Afula Illit, and everyone else who helped out up North to put everything into motion. Fourth, Kerem B'Yavneh families and students who helped with technical arrangements: The Be'eri's, Davidsons, Friedmans, Orlians, Roness', as well as Ilan Kattan, Daniel Lowenstein, Rafi Younger, and Avi Zisook. Editor's note: Last and most – a great big Yishar Koach to Aryeh Young himself, who ave his heart and soul to the success of this event, led the initiative, made most of the arrangements, spent a day in Yerushalayim shopping for food, inspiried motivation in everyone, etc., etc., etc. Meir Orlian

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