With all the recent breaks for holidays and Hurricane Irma, Mery Kamhazi (11th grade) was unsure of whether she wanted to join the high school on their first retreat in five years to a three-day trip to Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando in mid-November.
“Honestly, I was really not sure about going on the retreat. I thought it was going to be full of drama or was just simply not going to be an enjoyable trip,” said Kamhazi. “It turned out to be the total opposite and I’m really happy to say that I had a great time and really got to bond with a lot of people, especially the kids in my grade who I don’t really get to speak to in school.”
One hundred and twenty-one students across grades created lasting bonds with one another by riding roller coasters, navigating a corn maze, and dancing in Disney Springs during the high school retreat from Wednesday, November 15th to Friday, November 17th.
On Wednesday the 15th, school began with a late 9:00 AM start. Following a schoolwide davening in the high school cafeteria, students and faculty members boarded their respective buses and set out for Orlando. Four hours and a short lunch stop later, the group finally arrived at the Park Inn by Radisson.
After settling into the hotel, students and faculty visited a local farm to partake in Scott’s Maze Adventures. There, students and faculty weeded their way through pathways cutting through a field of corn. The object of the maze was to gather all the clues and fill out a game sheet to find the correct way out. Travelling in groups, the students and faculty members dealt with dead ends, forks in the path, and oversized flies, and because the group ran a little behind schedule, it was already dark upon arrival to the activity. Initially, some students were uneasy about entering the maze at night, referencing horror movie corn mazes.
“Before the corn maze, I was terrified,” said Elisheva Adouth (11th). “I’ve never been that scared in my life… but after I went in it was like a dream come true. I love corn mazes now.”
The corn maze was followed by dinner, and upon arrival, students and faculty hungrily exited their buses and entered the Kosher Eatery, the caterer for all the in-Orlando meals.
“It was really good, shockingly,” said Ariella Wolfson (12th) of the food on the retreat. “It had a wide range of healthy food and junk food.”
Due to the late arrival to the maze adventures, the planned late night visit to Disney Springs was postponed until the next night. Not wanting to return to the hotel and end the night just yet, the group spent a half hour at the Super Target located directly behind the Kosher Eatery.
“It was really fun,” said Kayla Abramowitz (10th) about the stop at Super Target. “We were all running around in the carts and we got to buy a bunch of food for the rest of the trip.”
At 10:40 PM, the group was finally ready to call it a night and got some rest before the even longer day to follow. Students were woken up by faculty at 7:15 AM and were ushered to davening scheduled for 7:45 AM. After tefillah and breakfast, the group headed for Universal’s Islands of Adventure where they enjoyed the day spent with friends at the theme park.
“The central part of the retreat was the day spent at Islands of Adventure,” said Hannah Mayer (11th). “I, of course, enjoyed the rides and the day spent with all my friends. The highlight of Islands of Adventure was definitely Harry Potter World.”
Some even faced off with their fears.
“I enjoyed the Islands of Adventure section of the trip,” said Mary Berkowitz (9th). “It was a lot of fun and helped me face my fear of the ‘Hulk’ which I finally conquered. It allowed me and my friends to have an amazing time and to share many memories and fun moments.”
The group departed Universal in the evening and returned to the hotel to freshen up before continuing with the day’s activities. After another dinner at the Kosher Eatery, students and faculty boarded the buses for Disney Springs.
“I really enjoyed Disney Springs,” said Essence Slomianski (11th). “It reminded me of Lincoln road, only way more lively. The atmosphere was really nice and energetic and just got us all in a happy mood. I walked around with my friends and went into some of the shops and saw part of a concert. Closer to the end, a lot of the girls in my class, including me, saw a DJ and ran to the dance floor. It was unexpected, yet extremely fun to be able to dance and let loose with them too.”
The group exhaustedly returned to the hotel, where they were met with an optional kumzits and bonfire led by Rabbi Assaraf in the hotel parking lot. Though it was dark and considerably cold, students loved the singing.
“I think it was a very memorable experience,” said Eliana Pollock (9th). “It was very nice and memorable and heartwarming that we were able to all just sit together around the fire and sing. It reminded me of summer camp.”
The next morning, students and faculty were provided meat lunches to take on the lengthy ride back home.
Many harbored high expectations for the retreat and its activities, considering there had not been a high school retreat in five years. But while, some students expressed apprehension for the retreat in the beginning, they were pleasantly surprised with how it turned out.
“There hasn’t been a retreat in a long time,” said Avigail Kahn (10th). “I think everyone was expecting big things from this trip. I definitely was.”
The response was overwhelmingly positive. Students felt like the retreat served as a great opportunity to bond with their friends and classmates, and many felt like they accomplished that on the three day trip.
“I think it was awesome, the whole retreat, especially Islands of Adventure because I kind of feel like I got much closer to my friends than before,” said Michal Cohen (12th). “We were going around and bonding over the rides and what we liked. I thought it was super, super cool.”
By: Raquel Zohar (11th Grade) and Noah Dobin (11th Grade)