Jewish Life Update Week Five: Teva at Eisner

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This week our blog is by Rabbi Howie Goldsmith from Congregation Emanu-El of Westchester– a faculty member, camp parent, and former Eisner Teva Director! Read what he has to say about what’s Jewish about Teva and the Teva experience connects kids to their inner selves and the spirituality in the world around them. 

The beloved Eisner Bubble extends well beyond the soccer field and hockey pavilion; it goes past the lake and ambles above Olim Hill. And when our campers venture to that wooded part of the Eisner Universe, they find Teva. Teva (Hebrew for “nature”) gives each camper a chance to enjoy the Berkshire wilderness with hiking, camping, outdoor cooking, and, of course, ‘smores! The campers learn some basic outdoor skills and enjoy time outside of their regular camp schedule. These things would happen at any camp with a nature program, but Teva is so much more because at Teva we connect nature to the joys of being Jewish. 

When campers make the steep hike up to Lookout Point, they stop to contemplate the days of creation, the wisdom to be found in the natural order, and the peace that lives away from “civilization”. And then, catching their breath while looking out over the Berkshire Hills, they experience the sense of awe and wonder that lie at the heart of spiritual experience. 

At Teva, they live differently for a day in a way that helps them foster a sense of gratitude. Instead of food served to them in the Chader Ochel, they make the food themselves. Instead of the ease of flashlight time in the bunk, they fall asleep with only the light of the moon. Instead of doors and screens, they sleep in canvas tents. This shift of living brings a shift of perspective that heightens their gratitude for the rest of camp and their lives a home. Fostering this gratitude is a core Jewish value. 

And Teva is also just fun. Beautiful hikes and fun nature games, time around the campfire with songs and stories, and it bears repeating: ‘smores. This is a far cry from the wilderness in which the ancient Israelites wandered for forty years. Yet, perhaps, campers can gain a bit of that wilderness wisdom for themselves right here in the Eisner Bubble.