After months of planning and coordinating, hours of long-distance phone calls and Skype meetings, and the excited anticipation of hundreds of students (and their parents), Counterpoint season has finally arrived. Counterpoint may have just begun, but for many of us, this is the culmination of a journey that started last year. As one Counterpoint season concludes, planning for the next begins.
Counterpoint aims to inspire our High School students at the formative stages of their lives to grow and develop as true leaders in their own right.
Once again, we are proud to host a large team of talented madrichim who bring with them passion, motivation, excitement, a strong sense of Jewish identity and Jewish knowledge, and a large dose of inspiration.
This year, we have a team of close to 60 madrichim, 13 international madrichim and over 40 local madrichim. It is this, together with a world-class Counterpoint educational program designed and created by our very own team of expert experiential staff, that guarantees Counterpoint is a highlight for each and every student that attends.
Our international madrachim team members come from Israel and bring with them a strong love for Israel and an ability to create and maintain relationships that last long after Counterpoint has ended. While our students enjoy the formal programs during Counterpoint, they get just as much out of the informal ‘chill’ sessions, talking to the madrichim about life in general.
Our local madrichim are a talented group of people who are excellent role models for our students, and most of them are Moriah graduates. We are very proud of the fact that we encourage our alumni to maintain their kesher (connection) with the school, and many of our madrichim come in each morning to assist us with Tefillah. These talented young men and women are also responsible for organising post Counterpoint follow-up programs, which include regular learning sessions in and out of school, Shabbat meals and informal catch-up sessions.
Many of our local madrichim are giving up some of their time at university in order to be on Counterpoint, and while many of them are glad to do so, we do appreciate the time and effort they are willing to invest in such a worthwhile program. When asked why they are willing to join us for Counterpoint, especially during university time (and many are foregoing income from part-time jobs), their response was almost unanimous:
The Counterpoint seminars explore Jewish ideals and values, focus on interpersonal relationships, and facilitate a process of self-reflection to help students better themselves as young Jewish teenagers.
Counterpoint is made up of innovative, relevant and exciting educational programs, ruach sessions (singing and dancing with the talented Counterpoint band), chaburot (small learning groups), delicious meals and free time. The combination of each of these elements contributes to the overwhelming success of the program.
In his article titled ‘The Magic of Jewish camps’, Arnold Eisen, Chancellor and President of Faculties for the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) writes:
“There are not many things any of us could do for the future of Judaism and the Jewish community that would be more effective than getting more Jewish students to spend more time in serious Jewish camps, experimenting with different educational aims and methods at those camps, and increasing the presence there of Hebrew, Israel, and compelling, relevant teachings from the Jewish tradition – such as Jewish ethics pertaining to relationships and other issues that are at the forefront of our teens’ minds. Our people, our tradition, and our society will be the better for this effort.”
Eisen explains that camps like Counterpoint provide a counter-reality where sport, debate and discussion take place in Jewish time, and where Torah is studied and practiced in surroundings filled with Jewish commitment, Jewish images and Jewish fun. Judaism is not only discussed, it is sung, played, danced and loved.
Year 12 Counterpoint is the culmination of our students’ experiential Jewish education. Their program leads them on an intellectual rollercoaster, which allows them to reflect on their past, value their present and consider their future choices as they face the reality that they only have a few short weeks left at school. The program focuses on what values our students consider to be important and how these values will contribute to a better future for our students. They will also consider the opportunities available for them to still connect to their Judaism and their community once they have left the safety and security of Moriah College.
The focus for Year 11 is responsibility. As senior students, they need to accept responsibility for their own actions as well as those of their peers. We expose students to the importance of group responsibility and cooperation to achieve goals. Students are challenged to complete team-building exercises, given opportunities to introspect and encouraged to discuss their own personal goals. Year 11 students become role models for the younger years. We hope to instil in our students a sense of values-driven leadership in order for them to engage and educate students in the younger years. The highlight is being able to celebrate Shabbat with their year group and with a team of madrichim with whom they will have forged close relationships throughout the week. To see (and hear) the whole year group singing at the top of their voices the traditional Shabbat melodies is nothing less than inspiring.
The theme for Year 10 Counterpoint is Me and My Surroundings. Students are maturing and beginning to understand their role within the school and wider community. As such, it is important that they have an opportunity to consolidate their Jewish understanding and the importance of their Jewish heritage as they consider the role they play in passing this down to the next generation. There is also a strong focus on Zionism where students debate modern dilemmas that transpire in the State of Israel. Students will be encouraged to view issues from a variety of perspectives. Students will also understand that Judaism is able to cope with challenges and they will have an opportunity to analyse some of these challenges and propose solutions or approaches to such challenges. Year 10 students also have the opportunity to be together over Shabbat, which they appreciate and value.
Year 9 will focus on connections with friends and family. This is the first opportunity students have of spending a Shabbat together with their year group. As such, it is the perfect occasion for students to self-reflect and reflect on those things that are important to them as they celebrate Shabbat and remove themselves from their weekly worries. Students are encouraged to establish relationships with those in their year group whom they may not know so well. In addition, they will also have opportunities to befriend the team of local and international madrichim. Students will also engage in programs designed to deepen their understanding of concepts, such as dealing with peer pressure, understanding and achieving humility and how to make the most of Shabbat.
We introduce the concept of Counterpoint to students in Year 8. While they do not experience Shabbat, they do spend three days focusing on Mi Ani?, Who am I? (Hillel’s famous question in Avot 1:14). Students will explore various responses and attitudes to this question and relate these to their own lives. They will also explore their own set of Jewish values and how these influence their day-to-day decisions. This being their first Counterpoint, we make sure their time is full of fun, entertainment and excitement.
We know that for all these students, Counterpoint is a highlight. We know this because every year, as our Year 12 students graduate, they list Counterpoint as one of their best school experiences. We also know this because during the Counterpoint season, there is a buzz in the air.
Our Counterpoint team is ready, the caterers are fine-tuning their menus, the band is rehearsing to create that unique Counterpoint ruach, and the venue is waiting (well, maybe not quite) for the buses full of excited students to begin their Counterpoint experience.
About the author
Ronnen Grauman is the Acting Head of Jewish Life and Learning at Moriah College in Queens Park, NSW.