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Being a Big Kid at Summer Camp (URJ Camp Newman)

I sit here up at Faculty Row of the URJ Camp Newman (Santa Rosa, CA) as Shabbat evening comes to an end. We just finished enjoying an inspirational all camp service, delicious dinner by Tammy, awesome brownies for dessert, a raucous song session under the stars and an energetic (read “exhausting” hour of Israeli dance.

Now Jewish composer and singer Dan Nichols and Fresno’s Rabbi Rick Winer are leading the gathered group of faculty in singing old favorite Jewish songs from summers gone by.

Still dressed in our Shabbat whites, we faculty are seemingly reliving our younger days as campers and camp staff. Really though, our faculty Shabbat gathering – a unique combination of singing, laughing, noshing (eating a lot of small bites to duck the big calories), and joking – evokes a unique kind of camp l’dor vador (from generation to generation).

We all grew up in one of the camps of the Union for Reform Judaism, where our hearts and outlooks were shaped in deeply meaningful ways for all time. Now we each dedicate precious downtime in our professional lives volunteering at camp to ensure that the subsequent generations of Jewoah youth enjoy an updated version of vibrant living Judaism to sustain them in the years ahead.

We were kids back then, singing, struggling, loving camp and embracing our Judaism. Now most of us have kids here at Camp Newman, (our own and those of our congregational family) who are similarly singing, struggling, loving camp and embracing their Judaism.

How fortunate are we that we get to see the relevance of this 24/7 Judaism and it’s purposeful youth engagement, even as our children move from camper to counselor and beyond.

Of course we come to camp for more than just nourishing our own souls and those of our children. We come because at camp we quickly rediscover the unvarnished bountiful beauty that is our Jewish tradition. We practice our creativity here at Camp Newman with (and on) 1400 youth and college students, and then return home to our congregations and organizations prepared to reenergize them the same way.

Too soon havdala will arrive, and with it the end of Shabbat. May the light of the havdala candle remind us always of how interconnected are our Jewish homes; our house, congregation, Israel and camp form one seamless whole that brings warmth and holiness to life. And our lives.

May it be so always. Shabbat shalom.

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