By Alaina Yoakum, Director of Marketing & Communications

Years ago when my kids were little, prayer was inaccessible to them. They would often pray in our synagogue, but I could only get them to do so for short spans and they didn’t often understand the meaning or context of the prayers. Then we came to camp, and they discovered entirely new and exciting paths into prayer, ones that were dotted with finger paint and redwood trees, with yoga and hikes to a Jewish star.

Here at URJ Camp Newman, our rabbinic faculty excel at making prayer come alive for our campers. Creativity is the norm – and innovative t’fillah services are encouraged and embraced. What’s even more exciting is to learn about how many of these rabbis actually use camp as a testing ground for experimental prayer services that they then take back with them to their own synagogues.

This week, for instance, Rabbi Karen Sherman of Temple Etz Rimon led a “tefloption” where campers wrote Haiku and other poetry on the different prayers in the service. They were awesome! Here are just a few of them for your Shabbat enjoyment:


On Kaddish and Memory, by Rosie W. (Nitzanim):

To celebrate life and death,

to live the life we love.


On Mi Chamocha and Freedom, by Melody W. (Etzim)

Once we were captured

We want to be free

And once we were free

We abused the right


The following are all by Gabriel Y. (Kesher) – he wrote one for each prayer in the service:

On Barchu and Invitation

As my knees are bent

My mind shifts to prayer

The service has begun


On Ma’ariv Aravim and Evening

The sun sinks slowly

Darkness spreads across the land

But stars shine brightly


On Shema and Listening

If we are quiet

And we pray down to our hearts

God listens closely


On V’ahavta and Love

And we all shall love

Be acceptable to you

Oh, God we shall love


Mi Chamocha and Freedom

The house of bondage

No longer means such to us

Because we are free


On Amidah and Personal Prayer

God opens our lips

So we may give thanks to Him

For all he has done


On Aleinu and Community

As we reach the end

Gathered, a community

We all praise our God


On Kaddish and Memory

We may think it’s sad

But to praise God once again,

A valuable chance