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Thursday, March 10, 2016

Sophomore Seminar 2016 Reflection

Sophomore Seminar has been one of the greatest experiences in my high school career. Although we left for the Berkley Hotel Friday morning, seminar sessions started Thursday morning in school when Mr. Joey Cabaso, a speaker from SAFE, came to talk to the sophomore grade. Mr. Cabaso's speech about his own experiences with alcohol and drugs really made an impact on both the sophomores and the teachers. He spoke from the heart, telling everyone how he lost a major part of his life to these horrible addictions. His speech connected with the theme of this year's seminar, transitions and changes.

As soon as we arrived at the hotel and settled in, seminar began. Rabbi Besser, the head of seminar, started off the day with both inspiring and emotional videos that led into a speech given by our very own Ms. Sarah Marcus. Ms. Marcus's words brought the room to tears; you could hear sniffling all around you. Her experiences as a a young woman with a family dilemma brought out the emotions in everyone. This was the perfect start to a weekend that was full of feelings - joy and sadness, appreciation and gratitude. We welcomed Shabbat with singing and dancing that was filled with love which was followed by prayers and dinner.
After dinner, there was a meaningful session about relationships. We ended off the night with tisch, which was definitely a huge highlight of the weekend. Students got up in front of everyone and talked about transitions or changes they had been through, which takes a lot of courage. Many students' stories brought students to tears. Every student and adult left that room with immense feelings of appreciation and gratitude for what they have and for the tough changes they didn't have to experience themselves. The night ended around 1:00 AM but resumed shortly after at 9:15 for prayers and Torah reading.

Shabbat day was filled with sessions with teachers and advisers on decisions and transitions. Lunch was followed by free time where students had the option to join a session with Ms. Sally Shatzkes and four Holocaust survivors from Russia. This session was moving and incredible; the survivors talked about the biggest transitions they have experienced throughout their lives. The things they've gone through and witnessed are almost beyond comprehension and it was an incredible experience to be a part of. By the end of Shabbat Rabbi Besser led the grade in rikkudim and Mr. Galpert sang Havdallah while two of the survivors held the candle. We were sad to see Shabbat go but one hour later, class wars began. There were games like musical chairs, name that tune, teacher tweets, and tushi volleyball where both students, teachers, and senior advisers competed for the winning title. Afterwards, there was more dancing and singing followed by an emotional kumzitz. But that's not the end! On Sunday morning there was one last dance and then we were off. Students took many pictures before leaving, both in the hotel and on the gorgeous beach across the street. This was an amazing end to an amazing weekend. I can't wait for junior seminar to begin next year! ~Sylvia Ashkenazie, Class of 2018