At this point in the school year, a typical teenager is counting down the days until a long-awaited and well deserved summer vacation. Some teens are even counting down the days until their graduation, or maybe even receiving their first car!
Me? I was marking my calendar day-by-day, probably before the school year even began, for the San Diego NCSY’s THX Shabbaton. THX is a leadership & learning based Shabbaton weekend that stands for The ToraH EXperience— and what an experience it was!
I live in Los Angeles where almost everything is exaggerated to the max. So, I was really looking forward to a weekend that would guarantee inspiration, connecting to my Jewish roots, and meeting other high-schoolers just like me.
There was no better way to start the shabbaton then with Kabbalot Shabbat, songs welcoming the Sabbath. We moved on to a remarkable dinner and heard from NCSY teens as well as the incredible, world renowned speaker, Charlie Harary. He spoke to us about achieving greatness, becoming a leader, and the importance of being a Jew & carrying on the tradition. Believe me when I tell you that hearing him speak throughout the weekend was a life changing experience.
On top of that, we had the opportunity to attend an abundance of learning sessions and discussions throughout the weekend. These included topics like Jewish lifestyle, Zionism, historical Biblical studies, modern Israel, the text of the Tanachand various other significant sources.
My personal favorite was learning Megilah Esther, the story of Esther (Holiday of Purim) in depth. I must’ve read the verse six times with the advisor in my session. Each time, I would discover a new layer and later learn how it related to my life.
As shabbat came to an end, the entire program got together for “Ebbing” where we sang songs in Hebrew. It was undeniably the most empowering feeling in the world. You could feel the passion and unity illuminating through the room. Ebbing was followed by an unforgettable Havdalah led by one of our fellow NCSYers. I remember taking in every second realizing how fortunate I was to be in the situation. I mean, think about it. A room full of teens, advisors, leaders all coming together to close a beautiful shabbat and graciously await for the next one. It was a night like no other.
On Saturday night, we made our way to laser tag and came back to enjoy, of course, more food! (Hey, I’m not complaining!) A couple of members/counselors from the Beit T’Shuvah rehab center in Los Angeles came to speak to us about their battles and life lessons of suffering from addiction. It is more than fair to say that this made the Shabbaton unique from all the others I’ve attended. We didn’t just LEARN about Torah and Judaism, we applied to ourselves as a whole and as an individual.
The members of Beit T’Shuva joined us for the next day where the leadership training was in full gear. We participated in a beach clean-up. It was unbelievable to learn the statistics of beach pollution every year. We spent the next couple of hours doing our part picking up litter left on the beach.
Before I knew it, the Shabbaton was coming to an end. The friends, the lessons, the unforgettable experience was over. We finished with one final learning session and an incredible closing speech by THE Adam Simon himself, (Who, in my opinion is the busiest man in the world— next to Ryan Seacrest… maybe.)
Needless to say, it was more than I expected. It was by far the most inspirational, influential, and motivational NCSY Shabbaton I’ve ever attended. I owe the biggest of thanks to all of the people who worked hard to make this happen. In all honesty, I’ll never forget it and I’m way beyond stoked to do it all over again next year and see what’s in store.
Hannah is a singer/songwriter living in Los Angeles. She is currently a Junior in High School and has attended every THX Shabbaton since her Freshman year – she is officially an honorary San Diego NCSYer.