Reatreat 2016 Dveykut

By now you must have heard how incredible Retreat was this year! The theme was “Dveykut” – connection – and it highlighted our relationship with Hashem, and our spirituality. The theme permeated the weekend, as we sought to grow individually and as a school community.


The programming kicked off with a great video to help us introduce and kick off the theme of Retreat. Check out the video at, which highlights the connection we often overlook but deeply need.

After dinner on Thursday night, we had the privilege of hearing from panelists across the Cleveland Jewish community who spoke of their deep spiritual connection and feeling of fulfillment they get from their own communal work. Esteemed panelists included, Channa Appel (Take 2 Thrift Shop), Rabbi Yehuda Appel (Aish HaTorah), Sarah Cooperman (Yachad), Rivka Goldstein (Kosher Food Pantry), Rabbi Pinchas Landis (Partners in Torah), Leora Lanzola (Jewish Federation), Estie and Rabbi Yossi Marazov (Friendship Circle), Estie Rakovsky (Bikkur Cholim), and Tzvi Turner (Chaveriem).

On Friday morning, students explored different approaches to connecting with G-d through a senior led program. Seniors prepared creative skits and presentations to help students experience connection to G-d through nature, tefilla, a chassidic tish, Torah study and Jewish history.


Nearly every tefilla over retreat was accompanied by a framing experience or alternate option to provide students with an opportunity to increase their dveykut with Hashem in a tangible way.

Further, on Thursday evening, Mrs. Ruchie Koval shared words of inspiration before Maariv and distributed excerpts from her book about tefilla, “Conversations with G-d.” The excerpts included Shemone Esrei with explanatory notes. Mrs. Koval encouraged students to try praying in English to connect to the tefilla on a more personal level, and we provided booklets to assist the students in doing so. Some students are still using the booklets daily during our morning and afternoon minyanim!

On Friday morning students had the choice of 8 different framing experiences presented by their teachers on a variety of themes. After a twenty-five minute discussion, students joined together for a classical minyan. Other tefilla enhancements over Retreat included a Carlebach-style Kabbalat Shabbat and a “mindfulness mussaf.”

Lastly, before retreat student were asked to reflect on what dveykut means to them. These responses were shared anonymously over the course of Retreat to provide students with inspiration from themselves, and remind them that they already have the tools they need most to increase dveykut with each other and Hashem.


Our Shabbat was packed both with opportunities to experience and learn about Dveykut, as well opportunities to have fun and build relationships within our school community.

Each meal was punctuated by beautiful zmirot led by students and hilarious skits and games led by teachers and students. Students participated in small group discussions facilitated by teachers exploring some of the obstacles to, and benefits of, deepening our relationship with Hashem. The boys' and girls' tisches were each full of passionate singing and inspiring divrei Torah.

On Shabbat morning students studied topics related to Dveykut through shiurim of their choosing prepared and delivered by their teachers. In the afternoon the Stark High School community came together in a town hall format to discuss concerns relating to the question of autonomy and choice in regards to personal Dveykut. Our Shabbat of "connection" culminated with a powerful seudah shlishit. The entire school joined in heartfelt song and heard moving Divrei Torah from senior, Miriam Pincus and Ms. Daniella Robicsek Botnick.


After a Shabbat filled with ruach and learning, we treated our students to a Carnival. While enjoying a BBQ dinner, students played classic carnival games, took funny pictures in a photo booth, and even drenched their teachers in the "silly" shower. It was the perfect way to cap off a Retreat focused on connection!

Thank you to all of our teachers who invested their all to ensure a meaningful, amazing Retreat for our students. A special “thank you” to our fabulous team of Ms. Adina Blaustein, R’ Kenny Pollack, and Rav Rick Schindelheim who worked tirelessly to coordinate and create this incredible program!

We can't wait for next year's Retreat!

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