By Lisa Colton
Think about the places where you really felt like you belonged. A school club that had a secret handshake. A job where you really knew the lingo. The hobby where you knew the advanced skills and could actually start teaching other people. ‘Belonging’ isn’t only having a membership card, or signing up for something. It’s a deep sense of comfort, connection and inclusion in something larger than yourself.
The great thing about being at camp for a week (or 2 or 3) is that campers develop a real sense of belonging in a way that’s different from anything else in their lives. Living 24/7 with their cabins, eating meals together, and developing a Camp Kalsman vocabulary are all really important parts of belonging.
The first days of camp – and all activities that follow — are designed to foster this sense of belonging – in your cabin, at camp, and as a Jewish community. For new campers, staff are attentive to defining terms and explaining routines. Having confidence in the routines is really important to feel like you belong.
In an environment where we’re using Hebrew (names of cabins, activities, blessings and prayer), it’s really important that the campers understand what they are saying – for the sake of Jewish learning, but also for the sake of feeling like they belong here, and Judaism belongs to them.
One camp tradition is to sing the birkat hamazon (blessing after the meal) after each meal. By singing this multiple times a day for a week, it’s a great way for campers to learn a very practical Jewish skill that they can use in a variety of settings throughout their lives in many different religious contexts. Having learned the birkat hamazon as a camper myself, I’ve felt like I belong at a cousins’ wedding, or at Shabbat dinner at an orthodox home when I was visiting Jerusalem.
At Camp Kalsman, we have hand motions that go with this blessing. These aren’t just any old silly motions, they illuminate the meaning of the blessing, a kind of simultaneous translation of sorts that help our campers not only know how to go through the motions, but to understand the meaning of our blessings in a much deeper way. Plus, it’s fun.
What can you glean from the motions? Do you understand the birkat hamazon better?
For the text, transliteration, translation and audio of the birkat hamazon, click here:
How To Chant the Birkat HaMazon.