Saturday, July 19, 2014

Being a Rabbi at Camp

I hate to leave camp. For the past thirteen summers, I have had the opportunity to spend time at the URJ's Goldman Union Camp Institute GUCI in Zionsville, Indiana with children from Temple B'nai Jeshurun. We have our largest contingent ever a camp this summer, fourteen students. The Temple's group of campers are found in twelve of GUCI's eighteen cabins. But it's more than as if I'm their rabbi. For two weeks, they're all my kids.

Whenever I go to a program, I look for them, at what they're doing, whether they're smiling or laughing (almost all  the time), whether they are coughing or sneezing (fortunately not this summer so far), and how well they've made new friends or renewed old friendships: very very well, I must say! I listen for what they say and watch what they do, sometimes cringing, often kvelling. What? I'm a parent!

I see them setting the tables in the Hadar Ohel (Cafeteria) and cleaning them. Yes, here they clean up! I see them covered in paint on Yom Sport, dressed up in crazy costumes for chug presentations, dancing silly dances like the Penguin Dance or Sieben Sieben, which is more like a crazed aerobic workout. I see all fourteen of my children singing and dancing multiple times a day with smiles as broad as their faces will endure. I hear them talk about Judaism and their world in general. I hear them question and doubt while they talk about their own faith and what they believe.

I see them hug friends who are sad and cheer them up. I see them learn from others and teach others what they know. I can see them grow from year to year, but also sometimes even from week to week. Having been at GUCI for camp for thirteen years, I have seen many campers from years ago turn into the counselors and staff with whom I now help to create programs. Some have even become rabbis themselves.

I have fourteen children at camp this Summer, three of my own, but all dear to me. Several already came up to me to give me a hug this morning (not my own so far), knowing that I will be leaving tomorrow. Tonight, I'll have the privilege of seeing their chug (elective) presentations: drama, dance, music, photography and more. I will have a huge smile on my face and, of course, I'll take a lot of pictures! Shabbat Shalom!

1 comment:

Anita said...

David, I think it is wonderful that you are there,
adding a personal touch to these children's lives. We both know that Jewish summer camps are a tremendously effective tool for teens to retain their interest in Judaism, as they pass out of high school and into college and adulthood. Hopefully,they will be active and engaged members of whatever communities in which they land. Your involvement is instrumental in their future!