Going Offline: The 12-21 Winter Shabbaton

Our largest event yet!

Toby Janicki

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This year’s Shabbaton was our largest event ever for 12-21. Numbering seventy teens and fifteen staff, we made our mark, and many had the opportunity to connect and build new friendships.

Our theme this year was “Going Offline,” and it was only a few hours after everyone arrived that we promptly collected all phones. The teens spent the next four days focusing on what was right in front of them instead of text messages, snaps, and social media posts. We knew that disconnecting from the online world would enable them to develop deeper relationships with one another and with God.

We held the Shabbaton at Camp Grace, just a few hours south of Atlanta, Georgia. The facilities were amazing, and we had the whole place to ourselves. There were basketball and volleyball courts and a huge field where we organized a pick game of baseball. Because of the warmer weather in the South we were able to spend a lot of time outdoors. In the evenings when it was chillier, we had campfires, and when things got too cold, we headed to the indoor gym for a game of dodgeball.

Every morning began with lively Shacharit services complete with hand drums and dancing. It is always so encouraging to see the way 12-21 teens take to praying in a traditional manner engrossing themselves in both the lively songs and the quiet times of personal prayer.

Shabbat began Friday night with a rousing Kabbalat Shabbat service and a special Shabbat meal. We all participated in the welcoming in of Shabbat by setting tables, dressing nicely, and making the dining hall fancy. On Saturday, in addition to our morning prayer service, we all read the Torah portion out loud together and participated in parashah discussion groups. We ended with an epic Havdalah service around the campfire complete with a concert and roasted hot dogs.

Throughout all the fun and games, we also went through the Going Offline curriculum taught by Camp Dad, Toby Janicki. We covered topics such as phone addiction and self-worth as well as imparted practical measures for how we can all be on our phones less and create a healthier experience when we are. By the end of the Shabbaton, I don’t know who was more inspired, the kids or the staff. We all came away with the impression that this was a huge success and are setting our eyes on Camp Tzadi next summer.

We are excited to see everyone again in just a few short months. Make sure to sign up soon for camp as space is very limited this year. See you all there!

About the Author

Toby Janicki is a teacher and writer for First Fruits of Zion. He is also the Theological Support Coordinator for the Torah Club program and has authored several books including God-Fearers and a comprehensive commentary on the Didache titled: The Way of Life.

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