Monday, November 7, 2011
Each year on the Monday morning after Retreat I write a long report to the parents. This past Monday, the day after this year's Retreat, I, like many of you, was too busy groping my way through the dark and hoping that the stuff I was squeezing onto my toothbrush was actually toothpaste to think about writing this report. But I must tell you, corny as it may sound, the glow, the warmth and the excitement of Freshman Retreat really energized me and kept me smiling through a very difficult week.
Those of you who have older Frisch students know that I always send a glowing letter about retreat because they've been terrific for years but I must tell you that this year's once again was extraordinary, in fact, they keep getting better year after year. We returned to school with the certainty that the Class of 2014 is absolutely lovely and that they will be doing great things during their four years at The Frisch School.
The theme of this year's retreat was The Individual and the Community, that is, to help youngsters think about the tension between nurturing and expressing one's unique individuality and one's responsibility to be a contributing member of the community, between conforming to the Halakhic system and personalizing one's relationship with God. As we discussed with the freshmen, that is exactly how we look at Frisch. We want each of our 600 students to be his/her own person, but at the same time we want them to come together as a school community and as members of the larger community.
The ninth graders were truly extraordinary. Throughout the long weekend they cooperated and participated completely and enthusiastically. The freshmen were fun to be with and it was a pleasure to get to know each of them a little better. It was interesting and exciting to watch the really perceptible coming together of 138 youngsters as a class even in the 25 hours, it was probably closer to 26 hours, we ended Shabbat really late, between the enthusiastic singing and dancing during the pre-Shabbat Ru'ach session and the extraordinarily spirited singing and dancing during and after Havdalah. We are confident that they will be excellent role models and leaders as were a wonderful group of twelfth graders who were chosen to be advisors at the retreat and who played an important part in its success.
The program for Freshman Retreat was a carefully crafted mix which combined a lot of plain old fun with activities designed to create social cohesiveness within the class and to get the ninth graders thinking and talking about issues such as self-esteem, making good choices, and healthy interpersonal relations. The senior advisors played a large part in creating and implementing significant pieces of the program. I don't think I've ever seen more wholesome bonding between upper and lower classmen at a retreat, nor have I encountered a freshman class which seemed happier and more eager to do things together.
Needless to say, there was also an important religious element. Beyond the beautiful davening, Zemirot (Shabbat songs), the Friday night "Frisch Tisch" which can be experienced but not adequately described in words and spirited late-night bonfire Kumsitz in the snow, there were talks and Shiurim which dealt a broad variety of substantive religious issues, including several which were raised by the kids themselves in stimulating Divrei Torah. And, by the way, ask your son/daughter about "The Last Living Jew".
The primary purpose of this letter was to tell you how terrific your kids were, and I am always reluctant to crow about Frisch, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the special people who made the retreat possible. We were accompanied by a group of (mostly) young and extraordinarily talented and dedicated Rebbe'im and teachers, too many to mention, whose ability to relate to their students is a major strength of The Frisch School and was a crucial ingredient for the success of the retreat. Special mention needs to be made of the creative (and often really funny) contributions by Rabbis Gedaliah Jaffe, Joshua Wald, Neil Fleischmann, David Goldfischer, Rabbi John Krug, and Michael Zauderer. Special thanks to Mrs. Debra Pearlman who works behind the scenes on the countless details which make retreat possible. Finally, I am certain that no school has an associate principal as talented, creative and dedicated to the students as Rabbi Eli Ciner who each year somehow manages to put together an even better organized, better run, more fulfilling retreat/Shabbaton than the excellent one we had experienced the year before.
I wish you, the parents, and to be honest, the parents of younger children who are trying to decide where to send their children for high school, had been able to experience just a piece of this incredible weekend.
Dr. Kalman Stein
at 10:29 AM