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Reflecting On a Year of Shabbat

One of the most important priorities for Kadima has always been to put the needs of our students first. The past few years gave us an unexpected opportunity to reevaluate how we do just that, as we considered new possibilities of communal engagement and learning alongside the larger BJ community. Through all the shifts brought about during our months at home, one key tenet remained true: Shabbat is an anchor for our community and for the Jewish people. Whether in person, online, in Central or Riverside Park, or in our Sanctuary on 88th Street, finding pathways to rejoice on Shabbat with our families and community is more than just a priority—it is a necessity.

Families are always telling us that relationships are the heart of what we at BJ do best, and Shabbat is the most fruitful time for relationship forming and building. Our understanding that coming together on Shabbat is the essence of the BJ community sparked a curiosity: How can we create a meaningful relationship between Shabbat, education, and family connection?

Time and time again our work has demonstrated that authentic experiences and learning by doing are the most effective forms of education. With that in mind, we created the Shabbat Model for Kadima@BJ to provide students and families with authentic experiences of Jewish life to foster learning and connection. This new model brings our families together in community on Shabbat, celebrating its beauty and peacefulness with prayer and music.

The Shabbat Model requires families to participate in two Shabbatot at BJ per month, either on Friday nights or Saturday mornings, based on their preference. By being together on the BJ campus, families get to experience the joy and pride of Shabbat while developing relationships with peers, staff, and the larger community. On Fridays, families engage with learning centered around the Kabbalat Shabbat prayers in order to create a foundation for their service experience. On Saturdays, our learning is centered around the weekly Torah portions, as we wrestle with key ideas to understand its relevance to modern day.


Now that the Shabbat Model program is in full swing, the community response to it has been beyond my wildest dreams. “I love the sequence of it all—the intimate learning and music, sitting together at the service, meeting new and connecting with families during the meal, and kid game time,” said one regular family participant. “It feels like a mini-retreat under the BJ roof.”

As a staff person watching from the outside as families connect with Shabbat and with each other, it has been incredibly satisfying to watch a passion project come to life. Even more so, watching students dance in the aisles and participate willingly in Shabbat services is everything you hope for as an educator.

Families have spent Friday nights learning all about the various components of Kabbalat Shabbat, which consists of six psalms (prayer-poems) leading up to Lekha Dodi and then two ending psalms.

Each of the first six can be seen as a guide through the past week, leading up to Shabbat. These psalms allow us to reflect on what has passed as we look towards Shabbat. As a culmination of our year of Shabbat together, families wrote their own psalms reflecting on their Shabbat journey as a family.

Read the Psalms Written by Shabbat Model Families

Sofia Donovan

Super fun
Baruh atah Adonai
Break bread together
Acoustics are amazing
Todah Rabbah to our Kadima community

Charlotte Caplan

When Shabbat starts to when Shabbat ends I enjoy the food. My mouth comes to life with all the sweet tastes.
Shabbat, when I feel the warmth of love all around me. Hugs and Kisses.
Shabbat, when I hear shouts of joy, laughter, the melody of song, and the meaning of prayer.
Shabbat, when I smell more food, and smell the peace and cabin air. Aromas of joy.
I see children, parents. I see flickering fiery candles. I see the meaning of Shabbat.

Rebecca Caplan

Shabbat is rest for me, like a butterfly pausing flight to rest on a flower.
Shabbat is community to me, like a beehive working together as one.
Shabbat means delicious food for me, like an ant finding a cookie on the ground.
Shabbat is hope in my heart, like a worm who is almost done digging a tunnel.
Shabbat is a pause for me. Like a grasshopper landing to breathe.
Shabbat is knowledge for me, like a firefly’s flash of light in the darkness. 

Ezra Wilson, Isaih Wilson, Amy Kushner, Robert Wilson

Starting a new day
Happy about it
A Friday night
Blasting with joy
Booming with prayer
A Jewish holiday
Tales of God the Creator

Jordan Mittler, Paige Mittler, Lisa Elias-Mittler

Together as a family and with our BJ Family we shared many things on Friday nights…
We learned lots of prayers
We had fun at the Reach for Shabbat Retreat
We had grape juice, wine, and challah
We sang lots of songs
We ran around the building after dinner while our parents talked to each other…parents liked that part the best!
We always say “it takes a village” and our Kadima family is our village!

Jeremy Caplan

A candle dripping
A challah bitten,
A project paused,
A quiet extended,
A breath taken,
An eye opened,
A rest relished,
A sunrise observed,
A meal savored,
A sunset followed,
A Shabbat lives.

Caleb Brand

Shabbat is the day of relaxation
Shabbat is the day of blessing
People pray while lighting candles
And eat delicious challah
Shabbat is amazing!

Allison Berman

Quiet and calm
from the week ahead,
the week behind
a time
of peaceful reflection
and as we think of peace
may we bring it to the world.

The Pressman Family

Shabbat is the best
Sing and share a meal
With friends
We don’t want to stop

Kabbalat Shabbat
Raise your voice,
Join in our prayers
Being together