When asked what was unique about this summer, I share the following story:
Every morning, I would pass by our Israeli Staff gathered under an oak tree to hear about the loss or grave injury of loved ones. All I could say was “I’m so sorry” and provide space for their grieving. An hour later, they would rejoin their campers and other staff with full smiles, expressions of warmth, joy and commitment. This daily morning ritual was a powerful display of one of Judaism’s central messages – to embrace life. We have amazing rituals for grieving, mourning, supporting each other in loss, tragedy, sadness. We have the equal call to reengage, live and celebrate. This was a source of great inspiration, community building and love between our Israeli staff and American staff and an example of how to live one of Judaism’s most precious teachings.
One of our Israeli staff just shared an amazing story with me – that the love, warmth, space, support provided to Israelis helped them grieve and heal beyond words; that in most any other environment, they would have gone home to Israel. Camp Newman was a comforting place for enduring their pain. She recalled a program in which every Israeli staff member shared the name of their lost loved ones, as our staff listened in complete silence. Over 30 Israelis, over 30 names. Prior to breaking silence, a curtain was pulled back, showing the faces and stories of every life lost.
This testimonial speaks to one of countless ways in which URJ Camp Newman imbues Judaism, Israel into the hearts, minds and souls of our community — by immersive 24/7 Jewish living and learning together, with a focus on the “Love of Judaism” as a pathway to a stronger Jewish identity.
As we prepare to welcome the year 5775, we hope you take the opportunity to embrace life (a central message of Rosh Hashana) and all of its blessings.