Around the Campfire #1
by Rabbi Mona Alfi, Congregation B’nai Israel – Sacramento
One of the great perks of being a rabbi is that you get to keep going to camp as a “grown up.” There is something magical about camp that is different than any other Jewish space. It’s an incubator for creating community, developing leadership, engaging in Jewish learning and for personal growth. It’s a place where someone can play Toto’s “Africa” on the flute while wearing a lion’s costume and is seen as cool because of it, not in spite of it. For kids who might exist most of the year as the only Jewish kid in their grade, or in their school, who might feel like outsiders, or just different in some way, camp is a place where they can be most fully and honestly themselves, and be celebrated for it.
The confidence and self awareness that so many gain at camp is invaluable. And the rewards can be felt in our synagogues. It’s no accident that most of the kids who go to camp come back home and stay involved in Jewish life, and then grow up to be leaders in our synagogues and the larger Jewish community. 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. Rabbi Ḥanina taught “I have learned much from my teachers and even more from my friends, but from my students I have learned more than from all of them. (Ta’anit 7:a)” To paraphrase, as a camper I learned from my counselors and rabbis. As a counselor I learned from my friends and co-workers. As a faculty member I cherish the fact that I get to learn from everyone who is at camp.
Check out the next edition of Around the Camp Fire >> with Rabbi Julie Bressler.