We are excited to share that Eisner Camp has been chosen to participate in a selective pilot program to expand our mindfulness activities at camp. Three Eisner summer staff and three full-time staff members are participating in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s new mindfulness initiative. This three-year pilot program includes three Jewish overnight camps and three Jewish day schools, all of whom will explore and implement mindfulness education in Jewish settings. Eisner Camp hosted the program’s first retreat right after Thanksgiving. Participants experienced sitting, walking, and standing meditation, in addition to yoga and mindful worship services. Much of the retreat was conducted in silence, to help the participants engage with silence as a mindfulness practice.
We look forward to the impact this program will have on our camp community as a whole, from strengthening and deepening our programmatic offerings to creating new activities that meet the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of our campers today. You may recall that last summer we launched an initiative around gratitude and mindful eating within the context of our meals at camp. On the first full day of camp, every camper in camp learned about the themes and message of our blessing after meals, Birkat HaMazon. Each camper also had an opportunity to meet and truly get to know members of kitchen staff. Finally, each camper composed a personal prayer of gratitude. We read one of these blessings every day at breakfast throughout the summer, cultivating a greater sense of mindfulness and awareness about our food.
To help you gain some insight into the experience, our participants will be sharing their reflections on the program. First up is Wendy Grinberg, our Director of Jewish Learning.
Camp has been and continues to be a gift for me and my family. A few weeks ago, I was given the gift of participation in the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s 5-day retreat with the Educating for a Jewish Spiritual Life pilot program. I took so many lessons from the retreat into my personal and professional life. One of the teachers, a retired successful businessman, had just recently suffered a devastating loss. He managed to come to the retreat for one night. When he spoke to us, he said that when he was able to sit down to meditate after this loss, his mind felt like an old friend, a safe place where he could go. It struck me that in such a painful time, spending quiet time alone was actually a comfort for him.
His example reinforced for me how embodying and teaching the skills of experiencing life with awareness, cultivating calm and the ability to live in the present moment, and nurturing ourselves by channeling a sense of love and compassion are key to fostering resilience in ourselves and our children. I learned we all have the capacity within us to care for ourselves and each other, and it is this ability that helps us cope with life and make a meaningful contribution to the world.
These are the reasons I send my kids to camp, and I’m so grateful that camp is investing in this kind of education. I know we will be able to bring it to the staff and campers in both small and big ways, and I look forward to continuing to learn how.