By Rabbi Allie Fischman, Associate Camp Director, URJ Camp Newman
To say the last five months have been a roller coaster ride is an understatement. When I joined the Camp Newman professional team in 2014, I wouldn’t have guessed that one day, I would be walking along the water at a maritime academy, plotting out where pill call should happen or where Shabbat services should take place.
But last week, as I wandered campus with my colleagues I had a flash-forward moment in my mind: suddenly, it was Friday evening and hundreds of campers and staff, a sea of white clothing, file past me as they head towards kabalat Shabbat. They finish their challah and brownies, walk by singing CITs, and head towards shira (song session) and Israeli dancing. They link arms with their friends, sing our bedtime shema (our evening prayer), and head to bed … tummies and hearts full. A Shabbat experience just like any we would have had at Porter Creek.
It struck me just how beautiful and magical it is that we are able to recreate an entire summer camp experience on a college campus. Recently, our CA camps and youth professional team gathered for some team building and Rabbi Erin Mason began the day by having us create a picture of our mishkan, our sanctuary. In the Torah, the mishkan is the movable sanctuary (or tent of meeting) the Israelites build and move through the desert during their wanderings. The mishkan is made for portability, meant to be taken down and put back up in each new spot.
The parallels couldn’t ring more true for us this summer. We are a wandering camp, forced to leave the place we have called home but able to find a temporary place to set up our mishkan.
And this is how I’ve begun thinking of our summer. It will be okay that we don’t have our buildings, our cabins, our favorite bathroom (yes, favorite bathroom), or even our favorite trees or spots on camp. We have each other, our rituals, our songs, our dances, our siyum. And though our team has begun to build our mishkan by picking out the location and names for places around our temporary home, our mishkan will only be complete once all of our staff, faculty, and campers join us this summer.
We can’t wait to find some new and different favorites…a different favorite spot to watch the sunset, a different favorite bathroom, a different favorite place to sit and become lifelong friends. And ultimately, though it may be different, it will all still be Camp Newman.
We can’t wait for summer. We can’t wait to welcome you home.