Shabbaton 2018-19: A Weekend of Achdus and School Spirit

Of the many events in a Valley Torah Student’s career, one that can’t be missed is the annual winter Shabbaton. Much like all of the other meticulously planned school events, the Shabbaton has been designed for decades by our Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Stulberger, and graciously executed by Rabbi Semmel and other administrators over the times, as a weekend where students are able to bond with one another and their Rabbeim:

While we constantly aim to upgrade our students’ Shabbaton experience on many levels, what doesn’t change are the core goals of a Shabbaton, and those goals are: fostering a deeper more meaningful relationship among the students, between students and Rebbeim, and between each student and HaKadosh Baruch Hu. This year’s Shabbaton was a rousing success on every level.

Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger, Rosh Yeshiva

After davening and a station break, our Shabbaton began with an invigorating call by Rabbi Stulberger for everyone to come together and create the amazing ruach (energy) that goes with all Valley Torah Shabbatonim.

Following this, students were briefed on travel configurations, and loaded up the busses to our home for the next few days, the Dovid Oved Retreat Center, nestled in the lush, green mountains of the Angeles National Forest.

Upon arrival, students were briefed on the schedule for the rest of the day, settled in their rooms, and began to roam around the expansive campus of the Retreat Center. Students were also treated to large sports areas and game trucks for their leisure.

After a few hours of free time, students went to their rooms to prepare for the momentous Shabbos ahead, and met in “The Lodge” for Rabbi Stulberger’s famous Potato Kugel, followed by Mincha. Mincha was followed by an always special Kabbolas Shabbos, led by world famous Chazzan Rabbi Moshe Storch. Students joined together in song with their peers, friends, and Rabbeim to wonderfully kick off what would become an amazing Shabbos. Following davening, students were treated to an exquisite dinner at the Sprung Hall with all of the fixings of an in-home Shabbos, coupled with inspiring Divrei Torah from Josh Koshki (‘21) and Rabbi Samuels.

Following dinner, students and faculty again came together for Rabbi Stulberger’s world famous pyramid game. The pyramid game, arguably one of the most anxious moments on a Valley Torah Shabbaton, is a  game where students team up to successfully guess as many words as possible in the category alloted to them in order to win pizza lunches at a future date. While all students were kept at the edges of their seats for the duration of the game, the 10th and 11th graders scored 6 of 7 possible points in the last round, titled “Major Ballparks,” to take a 5 point lead, which ended up being tied by the 9th and 12th graders.

The exciting games transitioned to an Oneg, featuring Rabbi Samuel’s world famous cholent, singing, and Achdus. Rabbeim and Talmidim alike revelled into the night until it was time for students to head to sleep for another exciting day.

Following sing-song wake up calls from our favorite Rabbeim and principals, students converged at shul to begin the day with Shacharis, led by our very own Rabbi Biron. Shacharis was followed by a small kiddush and learning groups before davening continued with Leining and Mussaf, also spearheaded by Rabbi Biron.

Following Mussaf was another divine Shabbos Seudah where Rabbeim and Talmidim continued to bond, filled with classics such as Rabbi Samuel’s cholent, and more amazing Divrei Torah from Rabbi Raskin, Micha Bayever (‘20), and Zach Pollack (‘22).

The day continued with some R&R in which students had the option to take a snooze, partake in some Shabbos friendly winter sports, or chill with their Chevra in the rooms playing board games. Following the rest period, the Olam once again met in the Lodge for another Valley Torah classic, the numbers game.

Following the numbers game, we once again gathered for Mincha, Seudas Shlishis, and a short kumzits with Rabbi Storch before completing Shabbos with an uplifting Dvar Torah from Matan Imanoel (‘19), Maariv led by Rabbi Stulberger, and a classic Carlebach-esque havdalah by Rabbi Storch.

Our day, however, was far from over. After some more free time, students and faculty met again in the Sprung Hall for Rabbi Grama’s classic gaga game. As usual, combinations including duos, squads, and free for all were all used for the fast paced elimination game, with Mr. Kleinman dominating the competition.

Attention then shifted to the lodge for special entertainment by a world famous illusionist. Students and faculty alike were bamboozled and dumbfounded by the extent to which he was able to seemingly reach into our brains and perfectly tell us what we were seeing. After the special entertainment, students and faculty were treated to a Melava Malkah in the lodge with dinner.

Following dinner was, in my opinion, the best few hours of any Shabbaton, the Kumzits. Led by Rabbi Storch and Rabbi Samuels on the guitars, students and faculty truly united to sing every song under the sun, from Avraham Fried to Zusha, and from Shlomo Carlebach to Eitan Katz. We sang until there were only a few people left around the fireplace, and with the time nearly reaching 1:00 AM for those of us who stuck around for the whole time, we decided we should get some sleep before the final day of the Shabbaton.

The final day of the Shabbaton was fast paced from start to finish. Our day started with Shacharis, breakfast, and a quick packing up and loading of the busses. Before our departure from the Retreat Center, students and faculty joined together for a group picture, taken by our very own Rabbi Striks, before departing to Snow Valley. Upon arrival at Snow Valley, students were able to choose between sledding, skiing, and snowboarding for a few hours before our return trip to Valley Torah.

After returning home from the Shabbaton, many students were eager to reflect on their experiences over the course of the Shabbaton:

Probably the best Shabbaton I’ve ever been on! Never felt so close with my classmates in all my years of high school, a truly amazing trip.

Yosee Kreitenberg, Vice President of Valley Torah’s Student Council

As midterms and the end of the first semester approached, the Shabbaton was a great way to cap off the semester. It really brought my class closer together with moments that I will never forget!

Aaron Imanoel, Representative for the 11th Grade to the Valley Torah Student Council

Personally, Valley Torah Shabbatonim are most importantly about the Achdus among all students, regardless of family, background, class, or social stature. These inspiring moments are what really allow me to appreciate what it means to be a member of the Wolfpack, to be in an environment in which I can cherish the time I spend with my peers, teachers, and Rabbeim. Overall, the Shabbaton this year, like all years before, was a life changing moment I, like many other students and alumni before me, will never forget.

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