On the day I arrived at camp this summer, I heard something that stuck with me.
Rosh Edah Maya Wasserman shared, “I came back to Ramah Galim this summer because I realized after my experience here in 2021 that this place is where I become by best self.” I imagine that many of us who have spent significant time at a Jewish overnight summer camp can probably relate to these profound words. For me, they struck so poignantly in my final days as Director of Ramah Galim both as a meaningful reflection on the transformative community we have built for so many individuals, and because I remember feeling this same way after my first experience at Ramah many years ago.
This week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, has historically offered us some of our most enriching Torah. In the same week that we seemingly revisit the 10 commandments, we also read of what many of us have come to understand as the “golden rule” – וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ – Love your fellow as yourself (Vayikra 19:18). In my many summers as a counselor, I would support my campers in making their own cabin brit or covenant, on our first night together. Without fail, the charge to treat others the way we want to be treated was on the list every single time.
Camp is only a few short weeks out of a long year. But that’s part of the beauty of it. Camp is a sacred oasis in time, and while we’re there, time actually feels almost nonexistent. It’s because we only get to be there for a few weeks of the year that camp is so special.
I am excited to be joining Ramah Galim this Summer for all the magical moments of camp I’ve heard so much about, from the dolphins and otters and whales that visit Tefillot Afloat to Havdallah on the beach. I’m also excited for the less glamorous moments, the socket moments. From waiting in line to get your surfboard to walking down with your edah to the beach, in some ways, this is how the real magic happens.
Hanukkah is one of my favorite weeks to spend in Jerusalem. For in the weeks leading up to Hanukkah, the sun sets earlier and earlier and we see less and less daylight, and then all of the sudden, my walk home after school is illuminated by candles! I pass by taxis with electric hanukkiot on the roof; I pass coffee shop owners lighting in their shop windows; I pass families gathering together to light and sing Hanukkah songs; the city grows brighter both physically and emotionally.
In the opening verses of the first book and reading of the Torah, Bereshit, we learn about the order of Creation. Along the way, we are told that God looks upon His works and sees that they were good. In Bereshit 1:12, it says:
“וַתּוֹצֵ֨א הָאָ֜רֶץ דֶּ֠שֶׁא עֵ֣שֶׂב מַזְרִ֤יעַ זֶ֙רַע֙ לְמִינֵ֔הוּ וְעֵ֧ץ עֹֽשֶׂה־פְּרִ֛י אֲשֶׁ֥ר זַרְעוֹ־ב֖וֹ לְמִינֵ֑הוּ וַיַּ֥רְא
The earth brought forth vegetation: seed-bearing plants of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that this was good.”
With a few weeks since the end of camp, I’ve had an opportunity to get some rest after a busy summer, settled back into my home and routine, reconnected with friends and family who I’ve missed while away at camp and begun to reflect on the summer we’ve just had. I think about all the memories we shared as a community, the friendships fostered, the lessons learned and the meaningful and transformative experiences we are each taking with us. The end of Kayitz 2021 marks a transition from summer into the school year for our chanichim (campers) and many of our tzevet (staff) members, from the reality of the last year into once again finding a new normal, and with the holiday of Rosh Hashanah right around the corner, from the outgoing year to the new year ahead. With a new beginning on the horizon, we pause to reflect and consider where we’ve come from and where we are going, as we open ourselves up to embracing what this year has to offer.