Throughout the year, it is vital that clergy and other Jewish professionals take time to feed their souls. Jewish professionals spend much of our time making sure others get what they need, often forgetting about our own personal care. Between solving congregational disputes, trying to please everyone and attending numerous meetings, it’s easy to lose sight of the reasons for our dreams of working professionally for the Jewish people.
One of my favorite ways to take care of myself and bring my dreams back to the center of my consciousness is to work at camp. Camp faculty are not only vital to the programing and t’filla at camp, but it is also enriching for the clergy and educators who attend. There is no better feeling than to be nearly knocked over with a bear hug and an exuberant introduction from a proud camper, “This is Rabbi Stephanie. She’s my rabbi!”
As with any other activity, at camp, you really get what you put in. The more you participate with your unit and get to know campers and staff, the deeper your relationships. It is heartwarming to work with knowledgeable, talented song leaders to develop creative t’filla we might never be able to do at home. Only at camp would a 7th grader think to invent an experiential game of crossing the Red Sea (creek) during services. Or maybe, it’s that only at camp are we able to test this creation with 30 willing participants.
Working with unit heads to bond campers together in creative educational ways is incredibly inspiring. Hours after arriving at camp, I was helping facilitate a program that taught 23 campers about being welcoming and kind to one another. Not only was this a great program, but it also felt as if I was looking into the magnifying glass on an artificial ant colony. There is a lot to learn about the relationships that play out “in the real world,” of the microcosm of camp. Their disputes might be about who gets in on a card game but it parallels almost any debate about the use of institutional space beautifully.
Not only do the campers and staff feed my soul, but the faculty are able to truly connect during meals and down time. There are only a few opportunities during the year when I get to collaborate creatively with clergy from all over California in prayer, programing and teaching. At camp, this happens daily! Not only do we learn from one another about camp, but we also have the opportunity to collaborate on services and experience different teaching models first hand. We are also blessed with resources that are at our fingertips— not just camp resources but resources that are applicable to our work back home. Being at camp is not just sitting around in a gazebo, although I’ve absolutely had time for this as well, but it is truly fulfilling work. Touching beautiful souls through Judaism and ensuring Jewish identity in the next generation at camp nourishes me in a way nothing else can.