By Rabbi Stephanie Kramer, Camp Faculty Rabbi
Rabbi Kramer’s Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa, CA, had over 30 congregants who lost their homes in the Tubbs wildfire.
As I packed the trunk and buckled the kids in and set off for Camp Newman by the Bay, it dawned on me that this would be the longest drive I have ever taken to Camp Newman. Until this summer I have been the most blessed rabbi living only ten minutes from camp, my home away from home. I could spend all day at camp and still sleep in my own bed, and shower in my own shower (really what could be better?). Additionally, my favorite time of year was summer because colleagues from all over would come as faculty to Camp Newman, and I would get to take them to dinner, wine tasting or even on a lovely hike.
The wildfires in October have changed my community and camp forever. As we made our trek to Camp Newman by the Bay and pulled into the entrance of Cal Maritime, the Avodaniks and CITs lined the road cheering and singing, “Haveniu Shalom Alechim… We are so glad to see YOU…,” we rolled our windows down and my first-time camper, Micah, and my four year old, Noa, started to squeal with excitement. Singing and screaming and squealing with pure joy and anticipation was flooding thought the car… In the front seat, I had the most unanticipated reaction, I cried. And I am not typically a crier.
I have walked through the ashes of our Porter Creek site a few times since the fire. I thought I had closure, I thought I had embraced my grief, yet in truth so much has probably been suppressed in my subconscious. This was obvious when the tears started to swell in the front seat. I quickly wiped them away and tried to sing along in support for Micah and Noa, and all the staff that are supporting our community in beautiful ways.
I am so glad to spend time on faculty at camp; we are blessed to have found such an amazing temporary home on such short notice. Camp is full and bursting with excitement, the most amazing food, beautiful views, largest swimming pool and comfy mattresses! If you thought your legs got a workout before, there should be a quad and calf contest at the end of this summer.
The best part of Camp is, and always will be, the pervasive love of Judaism. I have been working with the close-knit group of counselors in training. These teens are spending the first two weeks learning the Newman philosophies behind camp and best counselor practices, after which they will get first hand experience working with campers. These teens are amazing! They are caring, smart, socially driven teens ready to take on the world. Our world would be better place if they were in charge.
I have been astounded by the level of training provided to these CITs. They have been studying Stephen Covey’s leadership skills, learning how to discern urgent versus important matters, and how to best communicate with each other and their supervisors. What great skills for life outside of camp. I also have the pleasure of praying with these teens each morning. This morning we learned about the structure of the service, breaking up the service into sections, discussing the themes, and then in chevruta (pairs), they wrote their own interpretive prayers for the sections.
Every teen took this assignment seriously, each contribution was eloquent, articulate, and deeply spiritual. There were raps, poetry, prose, and even a jingle. The level of thought and creativity was inspirational. These are the moments that can’t be destroyed by fire, these are the magical moments of camp. These teens want to inspire the next generation of Jewish campers, the exact same reason I come back to camp each summer. May you find their prayers of the heart inspirational.
Whether it’s the whisper in the trees
Or the ground beneath your feet
And the signing of your soul
They all spawn from one
And for who we look to thank
We see not one, or many
We see a single great unknown
We thank infinitely.
Peace reminds me of Love
Love reminds me of family
Family reminds me of friends
Friends remind me of community
Community reminds me of connections
Connections remind me of Judaism
Judaism reminds me of God
God reminds me of Torah
Torah reminds me of Israel
Israel reminds me of home
Home reminds me of Camp
Camp reminds me of nature
Nature reminds me of Peace.
Rebecca Friedman and Yael Brynjegard-Bialik