Broken Busses, Blackouts and Achdus: The Unforgettable Adventures of the Beren Camp Shabbaton
Editors Note: Due to Hamas’s unprovoked terrorist attack on Israel, this article, along with many other Commentator articles, was delayed in favor of prioritizing Israel coverage.
Shortly before Rosh Hashana, students from the Beren campus made their way to the Poconos for the annual camp Shabbaton. A break from the city was much needed, and what better place to spend it than Camp Dora Golding?
Excitement and enthusiasm filled the street in front of 245 Lexington while students eagerly boarded buses ready for the weekend. However, the excitement soon dwindled after the first bus arrived and crashed into scaffolding, leaving it with a broken window. While a replacement bus was on the way, the second bus ran into issues.
“The bus had no air conditioning, and midway through the drive we had to stop because of a problem with the engine,” Leah Gurock (SCW ‘26) told The Commentator.
Some students chose to exit the bus and wait by the side of the highway because it was too hot inside. “Girls began to feel nauseous and dehydrated,” said Gurock. Half an hour later, another bus arrived, and the students safely made their way up to camp.
As if the issues with bussing weren’t enough, as soon as students reached camp, they were faced with the unfortunate reality that Camp Dora Golding and its surrounding areas were hit with a power outage. The air conditioning, lights and in some bunks, running water, were all unavailable and offline.
The only place to cool off was outside due to the stuffiness in all indoor buildings. Although the generators kicked in, they were not enough to power the air conditioning or running water. The owner of the camp had been in touch with the local power company, and was told there was a possibility that the electricity would be back by Friday night; however, that was not the case. All the issues left some administrators feeling guilty.
“I feel terrible that I put my students and staff through less than optimal conditions. I wasn’t aware of the extent of it until I got up to camp,” said Associate Dean of Torah Studies and Spiritual Life Shoshana Schechter.
Despite the bumpy start, as soon as Shabbos came in, there was a sudden notable shift in everyone's energy. The kabbalat Shabbat songs filled the air, lifting everyone's spirits. Inspiring divrei Torah were shared at the meal followed by an incredible staff panel. The formal panel lasted over an hour and immediately after, the panelists (Graduate Program for Advanced Talmud/Tanach Studies (GPATS) Director Nechama Price, Professor Shaina Trapedo, Professor Danielle Bloom, and Assistant Dean of Students Sara Asher) were surrounded by students who had follow-up questions.
Outside of the dining room, students were seen hanging out on bunk porches, by the track, or on many of the grassy fields, enjoying all the beauty that camp has to offer, even in the dark. “I really enjoyed being in the bunk setting.” said Bina Goldman (SCW ‘26), “I was mainly with friends from seminary but also with girls I didn’t know so well. We were able to get to know each other over Shabbos which was really nice.”
The night concluded with learning and a kumzitz in the dining room that went on until after two in the morning.
Despite the issues that plagued the Shabbaton, the majority of students reacted to the Shabbaton positively, expressing gratitude to the staff and students involved in organizing it, and there was a high level of participation.
“I don't think I've ever been to a Shabbaton where people have overcome more obstacles and still found the strength and spirit to make it into something that incredible,” said Hayley Goldberg (SCW ‘26).
“I think this past weekend set a new standard for excellence when it comes to participation,” said Jonathan Schwab, head of the Office of Student Life. “I think attendance was strong in the simple and most obvious sense: The rooms felt packed for nearly every part of Shabbat. But even more importantly, the attendance was strong in terms of students participating and being involved in so much throughout Shabbat.”
Photo Caption: A student shabbaton to Camp Dora Golding, despite blackouts and bus breakdowns, was a success.
Photo Credit: Richard Ringle / Unsplash