By Ariana Wiseman ’24
Where can a student make closer friendships? Is it in school in the halls and during class, or during Shabbatonim with their grade? TLS takes great pride in their endeavors in taking students on trips, not only around the East Coast, but around the world. Every year, students at TLS embark on trips to various sites around the New York area, or Boston, Israel and even Poland! These trips are great ways to make closer connections while also experiencing new places and cultures.
Junior Raya Sulman has always loved the trips, but it can be difficult to stay on top of work when time is limited when the students are away on Shabbatonim or mid-week tiyulim.
“I think that juniors are very busy, and it’s hard enough to find weekends that people are free,” Sulman said. “I really like the idea of an opening Shabbaton to open the school year to get everybody back into things since there is not very much students’ plate. It would also be nice to have an end of the year Shabbaton to conclude and make the memories while we slowly filter out into the summer.”
Shabbatonim are not just trips around the world to create closer bonds with peers, but they are also a great way for students to learn more about their Jewish identity.
“There are so many people in our grade that don’t celebrate Shabbat at home so it is great for them to get some foundation of what a typical Shabbat at our school looks like,” Sulman said. “Sometimes students do not acknowledge Shabbat and one of the main things about the holiday is that you’re with friends and you’re able to relax and get closer with people.”
Since students live anywhere from New Jersey to Connecticut, it is difficult to plan activities and get picked up at a late time. Since TLS is observant of Shabbat, the activities are limited.
“This year we had a Shabbaton that ended Saturday night, which I don’t love, because one of the things that people look forward to after Shabbat is doing fun bonding activities with their grade.”
Senior Ilan Brusso enjoys these tiyuls but feels there needs to be more activities and grade bonding, rather than too much free time.
“In order to make people closer, there needs to be bonding activities,” Brusso said. “When there’s free time, no one really hangs out with people other than their own friends in my experience. But if there are activities that are made for bonding, then they can.”
However, a Shabbaton is not the only way in which peers can bond.
“A lot of other private Jewish schools have a lot more school spirit,” Brusso said. “I think one of the reasons that they do that is because they take the time out of the school day to get the grade and school and just do activities that are fun to create positive memories.”
High School 11th grade Dean Joel Davidson has been accompanying the class of 2024 on their tiyuls throughout high school experience, from upstate New York to Boston. Even though these trips are filled with fun and learning, Davidson recognizes that it can be challenging and stressful to keep up with work, leaving it difficult to have these trips often.
“Especially because we pull in kids from the tri state area, it makes things harder for people to come together or to be able to make it to different school events,” Davidson said. “If a student doesn’t have their license and they don’t live in the neighborhood, it creates other problems, such as transportation, parents’ schedules, and more.”
Not all students at TLS have the same traditions and rituals when celebrating Shabbat. In fact, some do not participate in it at all.
“I think for some kids, it’s the first opportunity for them to spend Shabbat traditionally and in different locations,” Davidson said. “There is something different about spending Shabbat at a hotel or going to the city and praying in a shul that is completely different then how it might be at home. The ruach at these Shabbatonim are so different from how it is at school. Students join together and dance during Shabbat services and it’s like a vehicle for bonding. But I think for some people, there’s a lot of spiritual connection when students are with their grade and praying in a different environment.”