Choice seems to be a sacred value here at Eisner Camp. Campers freely move throughout the day to one of several options during each period, be it sport instruction, arts, or counselor-led activities. Our older campers also choose their Jewish learning courses during a period called Kesher. The visiting faculty teach classes that last for two to four days on a variety of topics. These topics are based on data from camper surveys as well as the faculty’s own strengths and interests.
This session, Chaverim, Tzofim and Olim campers will have the option to learn about topics such as Jewish Guided Imagery; Women’s Voices, Women’s Rights; Freeing the Captive: Immigration and Bail Reform; God-ify: Exploring Theology through Contemporary Music; and Israel in Comics. Of course choice adds a level of individualization and engagement, but there is another aspect to this model.
As they become more independent in all areas of life, campers practice directing their own Jewish learning. They can choose topics and modalities they know they enjoy, or they can challenge themselves to try something new. Rather than move up with the same group of friends, they meet a new cohort in each class. This models how adults pursue their own Jewish learning. We can seek out a course, join a book club, or meditate with a group of people in person or online. Older campers get into this habit by practicing choosing what they would like to learn and how in Kesher. Kesher means “connection,” and that’s exactly what we are hoping the campers will do–make a connection to some teacher or content or way of learning that will inspire them to do more.
This week’s featured camper reading
Campers write inspirational readings to introduce various parts of the Shabbat service. This week on Saturday, Olim will lead services incorporating the theme of “All Kinds of Leaders.” Here’s a reading by Leah, Lindsey, Dalia, Marley:
Love, truth, and kindness. These were the foundations of our service tonight. It is possible to tell the truth and not be kind, and it’s also possible to be kind and not be truthful. When you are compassionate, you can find the balance of being truthful and being kind.
The prayers in the service teach these ideas. In Ahavat Olam, we pray about God’s love and kindness, or chesed. At the end of V’ahavta, we speak of truth, emet. The Sh’ma is about oneness, and it is compassion that connects us.
Chesed and emet are hard to do together, like balancing two sides of a scale. Some of us live on the chesed side of camp and some of us live on the emet side. Whatever side we live on, remember that our goal is to find a balance.