It has been such a joy to spend the past two weeks at the Union for Reform Judaism Camp Eisner in Great Barrington, Massachusetts serving on the Rabbinic Faculty. Eisner is the Jewish Reform Movement’s premier center for fun and experiential Jewish education. It has been inspiring to spend quality time with the youth of our congregation who attend this outstanding summer camp. I was able to teach a variety of “classes” about Judaism while sitting under the shade trees, painting in the art shack, hiking in the woods and eating meals with 600 happy kids. Meals were never a quiet time, but an exhilarating experience often topped off by a session of Hebrew and Jewish songs sung with gusto. Shabbat services featured the latest and greatest musical creativity of the young and upcoming leadership of Reform Judaism. Shabbat Services were spiritually rich and meaningful. I was blown away by the intellectual depth of our teens as they composed new prayers, poems, songs and dances to celebrate Shabbat. This morning we had a Tzedakah fair during which the youth taught the rest of the camp community about a variety of social issues affecting life in our country and how we as Reform Jews can be active to do Tikun Olam (Repairing the World). This afternoon there was a Chagigah, Festival of Arts, where the children displayed the art creations they made over the summer. Tonight, we are going to enjoy an all-inclusive Camp Drama Show..
One of the most beautiful things at camp is the importance of creating a supportive community of friends that lives by the best of Jewish values of respect and inclusion. When I look into the smiling faces and the shiny eyes of these young and excited campers, I am filled with a sense that the future of Reform Judaism is bright and exciting. Now I am asking myself in what ways might we bring the best of Reform Jewish creativity of our national movement back home to our congregation in Westchester.
I want to express my admiration and appreciation for a leader of our congregation, Liz Barnett, who has just completed a term serving as the Chair of the Board of Camp Eisner. Our congregation and Camp Eisner share a long positive history of our Rabbis being deeply involved in Camp Education. In the future, I hope more families from our congregation will avail themselves of the blessings of Camp Eisner for strengthening Jewish identity.
At the end of the summer, we will honor all children who attended any summer camp with a welcome home blessing. For now, I want to wish everyone a healthy and happy continuation of summer.
Rabbi David Wilfond