March 2008: Memoirs of a Ga-Ga Champion…

It turns out that Ga-Ga may not be a 40 year-old man’s sport.  Make no mistake:  I took on all challengers and emerged victorious at the TBS First Annual Winter Shabbaton Ga-Ga Tournament.  But as I write this, I must admit that my muscles are a bit sore.  I suspect that the dozen or so other contestants, ranging in age from 5 to 15, probably feel fine.  Sore or not, though, we all had a great time.
    By the time you read this, you probably will have already heard quite a bit about the Shabbaton held on February 9th.  Conceived by Evan Wyner, and beautifully executed by a dedicated committee, it is difficult to imagine that the TBS Shabbaton will not occur annually, if not more often.

    There were many highlights of the day.  Following services, we were treated to a wonderful lunch that concluded with the entire group singing Birkat Hamazon – the Grace After Meals. That’s when I knew it was a special day.  With attendees ranging in age from infancy to their 80’s, everyone participated.  A Jewish-themed trivia game followed, with 6 multi-generational teams pitted against one another in fierce, but friendly competition, for bragging rights.  The brown team won in a close contest, prompting my son, Zachary, to protest: “It’s not fair; they had the Rabbi on their team.”  “True,” I told responded. “And now you have learned two important lessons:  (1) Life is not always fair.  (2) Next time, get on the Rabbi’s team.”

    The afternoon offered something for everyone.  A discussion session with Rabbi Scolnic.  Crafts and games for kids.  Babysitting for little ones.  The “Ask the Rabbi” session was particularly interesting, as Rabbi Scolnic, town-meeting style, fielded diverse questions from the audience.  A number of the questions focused on the challenges facing Conservative Judaism, a subject to which I alluded in last month’s column.  [For those interested in further consideration of this topic, I refer you to a new blog devoted to its discussion, which can be found at]

    All attendees reunited for ice cream sundaes, and then a vigorous Israeli dancing session, which seemed to draw more adult participation than the concurrent Ga-Ga contest.  The Shabbaton concluded with Ma’ariv and Havdallah.  It was truly a wonderful day.  A unique opportunity to spend Shabbat with family and friends, undisturbed by the multitude of distractions and commitments that so easily fill most of our days.  I look forward to the Second Annual TBS Winter Shabbaton.  I cannot promise to repeat my Ga-Ga performance, but all challengers are welcome.