By Leah Beck, Nemerim Unit Head
Ask any camper or staff member who came to camp last summer what the Theme was, and every person will be able to recite, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now when?” They will be able to tell you the significance and potentially even sing it in Hebrew.
The integration of this summer’s theme has gone very similarly. It has been ingrained into our mind, into the air we breathe, and is the backbone to everything we do at camp.
This summer our theme has been the four questions from Pirkei Avot 4:1 – Who is Wise? Who is Strong? Who is Rich? Who is Honored? These four questions have been integrated into every aspect of our summer, bringing Jewish perspective to our kids and staff.
Every session, the Theme was introduced to the campers using superheroes to represent Wise, Strong, Rich, and Honor and we worked as a Kalsman Kehillah Kedosha to truly embody each value into our lives. Our incredible visiting faculty worked all summer with Rabbi Ilana Mills, our Education Director, to integrate our Theme into their Mashehu teachings for each age group on camp. We also integrated a project this summer that worked to make Jewish connections easy for staff in their programming. This project used the Theme and the weekly Torah portion to connect ordinary camp activities to Judaism.
The other day I was standing with some visitors in line for lunch and they asked about the posters all around the chadar ochel that ask our four Theme questions without their answers. How amazing is it that I was able to turn to a nearby camper waiting for his lunch, and he knew the answers to each question of the theme. “Hey Sammy, who is Wise?” And he replied with an eye roll and a smile, “One who learns from everyone.” Who is Strong? One who overcomes negative impulses. Who is Rich? One who appreciates what they have. Who is Honored? One who honors others. Our kids and staff alike come away from this summer truly knowing an important piece of Jewish text and carrying with them a strong set of Jewish values.