Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Ultimate Shabbaton

Last weekend, from May 18-20, current and former members of the Ramah Berkshires ultimate frisbee team came together to participate in the 8th annual St. Johnsbury Academy Invitational in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. With over 50 high school-age teams participating in the tournament, making it the largetr youth ultimate tournament in the United States, the weekend had the potential to be unforgettable for the Berkshires participants. However, this specific team was unlike any other team at the tournament. Due to the fact that many of the members of the Camp Ramah in the Berkshires ultimate team were religious, players, coaches and chaperones alike spent the weekend balancing keeping Shabbat observances with playing ultimate. While the team was not directly sponsored by Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, a conservative Jewish sleep away camp, almost every member of the team knew each other from the camp, and as a result decided to sport jerseys displaying that name. The weekend began with three sets of carpools driving up six hours to a motel within walking distance of the playing fields. Friday night Shabbat services followed soon after. A classic Friday night meal was provided by chaperone and co-organizer Rabbi Steve Kane which included numerous Shabbat songs and plenty of carbohydrates.

The next morning, the players loaded their gear onto a truck to be driven by a non-Jewish tournament director followed by everyone walking about 1 mile to the fields. While phones and cameras were tempting, each member of the team tried their best to keep all of the observances. However, as soon as the first game began, all thoughts of Shabbat turned into thoughts of ultimate. Yet, during a break in the action, during lunch, the team recited hamotzi and birkat hamazon with other teams looking on in admiration. Although the team experienced little success in the win-loss column that day, they were able to close out Saturday with Mincha (the afternoon service), Maariv (the evening service) and Havdalah. While throughout the weekend the team experienced a number of rough losses, the real success came in their ability to participate in secular activities while still maintaining a Jewish religious atmosphere. “I was very proud of all the boys who davened kabbalat Shabbat, sang Shabbat zmirot and recited birkat hamazon, with the same spirit as they played their ultimate frisbee games” said Rabbi Kane. “This is exactly the blend that we look for as committed Jews who want to engage in the secular world.” One player, starting handler Jake Horowitz, put it best when he said “It was exciting to be on the field with the people I love doing the two best things in the world: playing ultimate and practicing Judaism.”

For more information on the tournament visit: http://vyul.org/content/blogcategory/26/215/

- Elan Kane

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