For many years, the Jewish Preschool on Sardis (JPS) has honored its rising kindergarten students and their families with a Shabbaton (שבתון) evening. This is a very special moment to reflect on all the joys, great and small, that JPS has brought into our lives and culminates the Shabbat unit the students work on with their Judaica teacher. It is a unique mix of education, food, laughter, prayer, and an outpouring of Jewish pride.
For a few years, the PTO has been discussing the idea of reconnecting with families who have already graduated, whom we don’t get to see as often as we’d like. How fun would it be to invite them back for a Shabbaton? This year, we brought this idea into reality…
On January 28, we celebrated a particularly meaningful and memorable Shabbaton. The 2023 Alumnae Shabbaton was a chance to recognize JPS graduates from the past three years (classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022)! It was an evening to recognize all the challenges and opportunities that have brought us together. Each moment reflected the student-first inclusion that is the soul of JPS. The evening began with some of our eldest alumni and their siblings proudly greeting faces new and old in their role as ‘ushers,’ a reflection of just how much our children have grown and how much responsibility our educators have instilled. As the evening continued, our children had a variety of roles, ranging from challah helper to kippah concierge, to stage play actress! Each role was a chance for every child to take center stage and showcase their unique personalities. Our tables were adorned with poster collages – a beautiful snapshot of precious moments with our teachers, families, friends, and our entire community from the first day to graduation.
As our JPS alumni lit candles and participated in Shabbat tradition, no detail was left out of place. The candle display had been meticulously prepared for each family, one candle for each family member in attendance. As the evening progressed, we all ate, laughed, and reflected on how much we had stayed together during this turbulent time. As the meal progressed from challah to pina colada kugel (the top dessert item!), our teachers once again took the chance to connect with our children with age-specific Shabbat activities.
Grown up celebrants were not left out of the mix. They were treated to profound storytelling on faith and perseverance, a collaborative trivia game of Jewish culture and history, and testimonials from the parents of JPS alumni. Each parent reflected on how JPS had brought community into their homes and how much support and love we have all experienced. It is this foundation that has allowed our children and families to flourish at home and beyond. We were even treated to a surprise theatrical production featuring some ‘older’ JPS graduates – including some who have been supporting the school for multiple decades! As the evening ended with some tearful goodbyes, we ran unexpectedly into a family we had not seen in years. They had a baby girl on the way – set to join JPS in 2024! A crucial reminder that the community of JPS remains vibrant and continues to grow, one child at a time.
Note: all photos were taken before the onset of Shabbat.
By Tamara Fowls & Sarosh Wahla