by Lily Lebwohl ’24
The Leffell School Cross Country team and the runners’ families will spend Shabbat in Wappingers Falls, NY to compete in the sectional race on Saturday, November 6 while simultaneously upholding Shabbat observance and Jewish values.
Coach Jordan Kalish will join the runners on the Shabbaton and is thankful for the opportunity his team will have to race over Shabbat, the first time the cross country team has had the chance to advance to this level of competition.
“All the runners on the cross country team have been working very hard all season,” Kalish said. “Our first goal, which we achieved, was winning our league—something we had been looking forward to all season was running sectionals. We always knew there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to run given that the sectional race is on Shabbat, but the school worked very hard to get us to the point where we could observe Shabbat and still run in the race, which is the highest level of competition that the Leffell Cross Country team has run in during its three years of its existence.”
According to the email that Head of School Dr. Michael Kay sent on October 28, this is the third time that TLS has participated in a post-season competition that falls on Shabbat. At the district level, accommodations to participate over the weekend are unnecessary because competitions are not held on Shabbat or Yom Tov. However, when teams advance to the regional level, the issue arises.
“Only when we reach the highest levels of post-season competition does such accommodation become unfeasible,” Kay wrote in his email to the community. “Fortunately, we have had experience with such a circumstance twice before—with our varsity baseball team in 2005 and our boys’ varsity soccer team in 2015 (both of which ended up finishing second in New York State!)”
High School Rabbinics teacher Dr. Eric Wasser will also join the team over the weekend to help facilitate Shabbat services on Friday night and Saturday morning, as well as Havdalah services in the evening.
“It would be terrible if, because of Shabbat, we couldn’t participate, and sometimes you have to be creative in making it happen,” Wasser said. “I think it sends an important message that you can participate in a lot of what goes on in the world and still be able to observe Shabbat.”
In accordance with Shabbat practices, attendees of the Shabbaton will wake up at 6:45 a.m. to pray and then walk from the hotel to the race’s starting line. Senior Avi Katzen, one of three team captains, is excited to run and to feel the adrenaline that it lends.
“We’re going to be waking up very early to start walking over to the course, but I think I’ll have a lot of energy during the race because it’s very exciting that we’re able to be there together, especially during a time when it is difficult to organize an overnight trip like this,” Katzen said.
Sophomore Noa Karchmer, the only female member of the team, is not only excited for the running aspect of the weekend, but also for spending Shabbat with her team.
“It’s not ideal being the only girl on the team, but I don’t mind it because I’ve been in situations like this before and I really enjoy doing the sport,” Karchmer said. “I also don’t celebrate Shabbat very much so when I do it feels like something different, and it’s nice to change up my practices. I’m very excited for the Friday night service because I remember the Friday night dinner and praying on the [freshman/sophomore] Shabbaton earlier this year, and that was my favorite part of the Shabbaton.”
Finally, sophomore Mitchell Breakstone feels that this race will be a unique experience unlike any race he’s ever run before and that getting to this point shows that everything the team has worked for paid off.
“I think it will feel more meaningful running on Shabbat than on a normal weekday after school,” Breakstone said. “Since we have worked and trained hard together throughout the season, it’s nice to know that we can continue.”