Monday, July 11, 2011

Camp Camp


What a terrific session it has been so far - half way through Kallah Bet at OSRUI. The kids are great, the staff is fabulous, and of course working with my colleagues and friends on faculty is as enriching as ever.
As we explore the *North American Jewish Experience*, the children have been exposed to a great range of ideas about the emergence and uniqueness of our community here, as well as to the rich and broad spectrum of Jewish life on this continent. Highlights have included: immigrating through Ellis Island and navigating first steps into the "New World"; decision-making as free and equal citizens in a democratic society; and how we articulate our beliefs in a positive and constructive manner (for our session on the platforms of Reform Judaism, we set the stage by conducting our morning t'fila - oops, I mean worship - in a "classic" style, right out of the good ol' Union Prayer Book. Most of the unit had never had such an experience. Thanks especially to my faculty partner, Rabbi Batsheva Apel, who served as a circuit rabbi in the south and has probably led more services out of UPB in the last 5 years than anyone :).
And this morning - our
limmud (study) topic was to cover the Reform tradition of political activism and working for social justice. The program went great - as the staff did a marvelous job in making the situation (a lost opportunity for a pool party) believable as an excuse to protest. While teaching the chanichim (campers) about tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedek (justice) - we were able to bring these values directly to our young people - making the conceptual into something they could grasp. The campers wowed us with their ability to relate this (mild) situation to the greater issues that have faced our world and our movement - they offered such parallels as civil rights, genocide, hunger, poverty, and environmental concerns. We should be proud that these young Jews, entering grades 5-7, are truly ready (and able!) to change the world.
Oh how much I'm looking forward to the rest of our time at camp!
For more, be sure to follow @jazzrabbi and @ravbat7 on Twitter.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The son becomes the father, and the father becomes the son

It was the last Tuesday of June, 1979. I was twelve years old, and a newly "entering 7th grader". The car - my parents' '79 Oldsmobilve Delta 88 Royale, in which I'd learn to drive a few years later - was packed to the hilt (well, not really, as the trunk was big enough to use as a dwelling for a medium sized family). Mom and Dad were driving me and Eliot off to summer camp for the first time. I don't recall what my thoughts were as we headed west to the Berkshires for my initial visit to URJ Eisner Camp (where I would spend the subsequent 10 summers). I do, however, remember exactly the moments of welcome when we arrived. A young counselor (Adam Marshall, I believe) helped shlep my stuff in bunk 11, and I was greeted by three fellow campers (Mike, Michael and Jon) who already had a couple years of camp experience between them (of all wonderful things, I'm in touch with each of them - to some degree or another - to this very day).
Looking back - there are a few things I know for certain. Attending camp for those years remains a most powerful building block in my life. And for a young Jewish kid less than a year away from Bar Mitzvah, it was clearly the most significant leap I'd ever taken in developing my own sense of self, and Jewish identity.
Skip to today. This morning, our family of four heads off to Wisconsin for two glorious weeks at URJ OSRUI. I am privileged to serve on faculty (very cool, kinda ironic), while our kids get to soak up the experience of being campers at the best place on earth. Granted, this is not their first year...yet as we finish packing the magic bus (our 2011 Honda Odyssey could easily fit into the back of my parents' trusty ol' Olds :) I am touched by the idea that Ben, now a newly entering 7th grader, is now subject to the same hopes, fears, uncertainties and enthusiasm as every such kid must be, less than a year away from the milestone of Bar Mitzvah. It's crazy I know, but closing my eyes, my opening moments at camp were like just a moment ago. And yet it's truly been a lifetime and more. I simply hope that Ben will also grow to cherish these times like no other...