It was earlier, hotter and more-strangely located than ever before, but that did not stop us from putting on a super-successful Sixth Annual OJCS Middle School Retreat! Our theme for the The 2023 Middle School Retreat was the same as it was for our Faculty Pre-Planning Week as it will be for the whole school and the whole year: “Connecting the Dots”. Over three days, we engaged in two different peulot (informal Jewish educational programs) where our students, by class, by grade, and as a full middle school had a chance to review and lean into the Jewish values that will enable us to maintain and grow a healthy and constructive middle school community and culture. I sometimes think that our school culture is a three-legged stool, with our North Stars, our “7 Habits” and our Jewish Values keeping us steady and stable. I was very impressed by the level of engagement and the quality of conversation – whether we were inside, outside, sleepy or wide awake – that our students contributed to this part of the experience.
Here’s a snapshot (or 12) of our experience:
Because of this year’s logistical challenges, we reordered the activity blocks, and this entire day was about one thing – whitewater rafting! We loaded up the buses and found our way to Wilderness Tours
where we spent one long, hot day paddling and working the rapids.
We came back to school exhausted and exhilarated! Everyone went home for a good night’s sleep, and came back with all their things as moved into…
Our day got started at school. We placed our things in our “Cabins” [the Makerspace & the Library] and headed to the Chapel for Middle School Tefillah Orientation. After that, we moved into our first of two peulot
(activities) for the Retreat. We used the peulot
to explore “grit” and to connect it to Rabbi Hillel
‘s famous quote from Pirkei Avot,”If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And being for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”. We created dream boards, discussed passion projects and set some big goals for 2023-2024.
After the peulah, they headed out to Dulude Hill in Carlington Park where they played soccer baseball (that’s “kickball” with a soccer ball for my American friends) and enjoyed a picnic lunch before heading back to OJCS.
Next up students had an opportunity to help prep for dinner and to swim at the Soloway JCC
outdoor pool! After dinner was prepped and swimming wrapped up, students changed into their evening attire and we went into our second peulah
. This one was about “perseverance”. Again, we studied some text, discussed in pairs, and ended with everyone’s WOOP (Wish-Outcome-Obstacle-Plan) for ensuring a successful 2023-2024.
Free time! Dinner! Dodgeball! Movie Night!
We began the day with a bagel breakfast, an all-middle-school tefillah, and
then boarded buses on our way to Meech Lake for a special activity led by Mr. C , Mr. Ray, and Mr. Washerstein before heading back to school so everyone could go home for a much-needed Shabbat rest!
Please join us for our in-person “Back to School Night” taking place on Tuesday, September 19th from 7:00 – 8:30 PM. (Although we are not offering a hybrid experience, materials will be made available to parents who are unable to join us.)
Will I have time to squeeze out my annual pun-tastic High Holiday post before Rosh Hashanah? Stay tuned!