A Shabbat Drash – October 14, 2016
By Ruben Arquilevich, Executive Director at URJ Camp Newman

Autumn has come to URJ Camp Newman, our home away from home. The leaves are changing and we are already sowing the seeds for our next summer and the opening of enrollment on Tuesday, October 18th. With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur behind us and Sukkot and Simchat Torah just ahead, it’s a perfect time of year to reflect on the beauty and purpose of Jewish summer camp.

The mission of URJ Camp Newman is to bring out the best in our children, staff and faculty and to celebrate the joy of Jewish living. All of these holidays speak perfectly to our purpose and philosophy as a living Jewish community. We begin by celebrating the Jewish New Year, followed by a period of introspection and understanding of our divine gifts; then we celebrate with joy and Torah.

One of our camp guiding principles is “B’tzelem Elohim,” that we are all created in a divine image and our divine gifts help shape our world. We seek to bring forth and celebrate the unique gifts of every child and staff member. By treating each other with “Gemilut Hasadim,” with  acts of loving kindness, we create an environment where children are free to express their true selves. The American Camping Association, as well as other institutions, have found that immersive Jewish camping is one of the most effective ways to boost children’s self-esteem. I can recall countless times over my career hearing children, staff and parents say, “I am at my best when I am at camp and these values have shaped my life.”

Many times over the summer, you can hear our campers exclaiming, “I love being Jewish!” Implicit in their message – and core to our philosophy – is that living Judaism is joyful. A lifelong love of Judaism begins with summer days filled with recreational, cultural and religious activities that are filled with magic.

When we ask our campers what they love most about camp, their top three are “Shabbat,” “Friends” and “Adventure Mountain.” Shabbat is the peaceful highlight of each camp week, Friends are the camp connections they make for life, and Adventure Mountain is the excitement and thrill of camp living.

Next week, we will celebrate Sukkot followed by Simchat Torah. Like Camp, these holidays center around the joy of being Jewish and the joy of Torah. We are all blessed to have this joy continue all summer with camp and all autumn, winter and spring with our year-round and NFTY teen events.  Thank you all for being a part of our community.