A Shabbaton Creates a Bond

Rabbi Baron with a group of 4th grade boys celebrating Havdalah
at his home during last week's Shabbaton

Overnight bags are currently stacked in our hallway as 7th and 8th graders are about to participate in another Shabbaton hosted by a teacher, Alise Gold in this case. While over the years we have had many Shabbatons at Akiba-Schechter to celebrate Bnai Mitzvot, we did not have Shabbatons organized by teachers and hosted in their homes until Chumash and Mishnah teachers Alise Gold and Rabbi Noah Baron joined the school in the fall of 2011, and organized Shabbatons for each of their 4th through 8th grade classes. And so this is the second winter when students get to spend a Shabbat together in Chicago’s neighborhood of West Rogers Park. While students sleep over at host families homes, the teachers host them for Shabbat dinner and lunch, escort them to and from services, and entertain them with fun activities on Shabbat afternoon.

Both Mrs. Gold and Rabbi Baron look puzzled when asked why they host these Shabbatons. For them, it is an “of course” thing to do. Says Mrs. Gold: “If you invite students into your home, you invite them into your life. You’re not just a teacher.” She firmly believes that you teach a student, not a subject. “If a student feels connected and feels that the teacher is invested, then he or she is going to be more open to the subject.”

Mrs. Gold (standing behind the candle) with 7th/8th graders
celebrating Havdalah at her home during the most recent Shabbaton.

Rabbi Baron concurs, “I want to get to know my students. No matter how much you accomplish in the classroom, it’s still a classroom. In my home the kids can talk as much as they want to; it’s less structured, and they can fully express their ideas.” The personalized approach to teaching at Akiba-Schechter was a natural segue for him from working with small groups of high school students at the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel. Mrs. Gold taught in New Jersey before, and says that, “Sadly, travel issues made it impossible to invite students to my home in New York. Akiba-Schechter is exactly what I wanted in a school. It is flexible; I can bring in my ideas, and I have the support to organize fun events like a Shabbaton.”

Last winter, after the first of these Shabbatons, the kids all want to have another one. Perhaps every week, they wondered. Thankfully, they got their wish, although not quite so quickly. While the 7th and 8th graders spend this Shabbat together, the 5th graders did so last weekend, and the 6th graders have their own Shabbaton coming up. Shabbat Shalom!


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