On opening day, we started with Eisner’s unique opening day ceremony. Inspired by the first words of Pirkei Avot (a part of the Talmud filled with aphorisms and short teachings), we read about the line of transmission of our tradition from Moses to the sages of the Talmud. Then we symbolized our part in that transmission by passing the Torah from our oldest campers to our youngest. The Machon and Olim created a circle around all of us to mark the holy space. What does it mean to have a camp with Torah, the central symbol of Jewish teaching, at its center?
There are some obvious ways that we put Torah at the center of camp – we put time aside each day to learn Jewish ideas and apply them to our lives. We take time to pray each day, and this year campers have been preparing in bunks to lead the evening prayer experience for their unit once during the summer. We mark Shabbat as a special time each week by preparing all week, cleaning up camp, participating in worship services, wearing white, eating a festive meal, singing and dancing.
Torah is at the center of camp in other ways as well. We use Hebrew words that give camp its uniquely Jewish atmosphere. We also live in a community where it’s fun and exciting to be Jewish. We are a diverse community with Jewish campers from all over, Israelis, faculty made up of rabbis, cantors and educators, and non-Jews who are supportive of our Jewish mission.
Perhaps most importantly, our values are Jewish. We say Hineini– I am here, to indicate our willingness to be fully present for ourselves and others. On the first night, campers wrote a bunk brit, or contract, based on shared Jewish values. We solve our problems in the bunk during a weekly conversation using Jewish values. The way we treat the animals on the farm is informed by Jewish values. The gratitude we express for our food, for waking up in the morning, and for a beautiful sky are all expressions of Jewish values. The songs we sing express our tradition’s most central principles and values. As campers live their lives outside of camp, we hope they will maintain camp friendships and stay connected to Jewish community and practice. We take great pride in the campers who grow into adults that exemplify the Jewish values we teach, practiced and reinforced here.