staff backpack
by Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik, Temple Ahavat Shalom

Two weeks ago my youngest daughter became a bat mitzvah; she led the community in worship, read Torah, and took her first steps toward becoming a Jewish adult. A week later my oldest daughter was confirmed, publicly affirming her commitment to Judaism as she ended her formal Jewish education. And then this week she took a different type of step toward Jewish adulthood: she became a CIT and received her staff backpack at URJ Camp Newman.


My three daughters have grown up in the Camp Newman community, and a staff backpack is a status symbol — it is as much a sign of Jewish adulthood as wearing a tallit. It is an outward symbol of her new role at camp — that she is taking on some responsibility, and is on her way to becoming an adult member of the Camp Newman community.


It was a big moment for all the CITs, and as they received their camp shirts, backpacks and clipboards, their excitement was heard throughout camp. In the world of summer camp it is clear what ”growing up” means: campers mark growth from summer to summer by what session they are in and what privileges come with it — such as getting to stay up later, getting more free time, and eventually getting more responsibility. For CITs, that responsibility includes welcoming campers on arrival day singing “Heveynu Shalom,” performing their Saturday night skit, and singing the “Lai Lai” song as campers make their way out of the dining hall on Shabbat.


The path to Jewish adulthood is filled with many milestones, and it is incredible to watch these emerging Jewish adults create their own CIT community while participating in the larger camp community. Part of being a Jewish adult means educating the next generation, and CITs know that they are passing on a love of camp that their CITs had shared with them. My daughter has great memories of all of her CITs and this summer she recognizes that now it’s her turn, teaching them how to make friendship bracelets… and spreading the joy of being part of a Jewish community.