When we talk about joyful Judaism, there is a group of essential folks who help create moments of inspiration, connection and reflection for our campers and staff. They put the “LOVE” in “I love being Jewish”. They are self-proclaimed “camp people” many of whom have spent 30+ summers at camp because they believe in the power and magic that is possible here … they were campers, staff members and continue to come back as Educational, Medical, Nefesh and Administrative Faculty, volunteering their time to give back to camp.
Over the course of the summer, we welcome nearly 100 faculty members – this is one of the many ways the Camp Newman experience is truly unique and life-changing for our campers and staff. This week we’re spotlighting our Educational Faculty, made up of Rabbis, Jewish Educators and Cantors from Reform congregations across the West Coast and Southwest, along with many professional artists in residence, elevate the overall educational, musical, artistic and spiritual experience at camp.
Faculty build connections with campers, regardless of whether a child or teen belongs to a congregation or not, sending the message that there is no one way to be Jewish. By exposing campers to so many wonderful, warm and approachable Jewish leaders, we are building bridges between the summer experience at camp and year-round Jewish living and community. Where else can you toss a frisbee back and forth with a Rabbi while talking about how Jewish values can guide our relationships with social media? Learning paper-cutting and creating Jewish art through comic book clippings with a Jewish educator and Rabbi power couple? Having a snack and then a jam session with one of the most popular Jewish musicians since Debbie Friedman? How about seeing your cantor from temple dressed in a tu-tu as the MC of NUTS (Newman Under the Stars, our talent show)?
Our campers and staff leave each summer with a Jewish network of support that extends beyond the walls of a synagogue or JCC or Hillel. Perhaps more importantly, our campers for whom their summers at Camp Newman are their only Jewish experience, the relationships and trust built with faculty have an enduring impact on their Jewish identities long after they have moved on from camp.
Our alumni consistently turn to their “Camp Rabbis” to conduct their marriages, provide pastoral care and support, and serve as a source of mentorship and connection. Our faculty share that spending time at camp is re-energizing, helping them tap into new sources of creativity, joyful Judaism and inspiration that they are able to bring back to their congregations and communities, or infuse into their art practice. For all these reasons many faculty also ensure that spending time at camp is written into their contracts – camp really is that important and the relationship between camp and synagogue, camper and faculty member, is truly symbiotic.
This summer we’ll be sharing reflections from our incredible faculty members on their time at camp and why they keep coming back year after year in a series called “Around the Campfire”.
Rabbi Mona Alfi of Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento, our Session Aleph Faculty Dean, shares that “camp teaches us to embrace what makes us different, to see these things as our strengths, not our weaknesses, and it is a place where our Judaism can be fully integrated into who we are. I keep coming back to camp because it is a place where I continue to grow and to learn.” Read more from Rabbi Mona >> and stay tuned for more in Around the Campfire.