Sara Beth Berman is a Nadiv Educator working at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, GA in the summer and The Davis Academy in Atlanta, Georgia during the school year.
I have been to the mountaintop. Learning with students in my day school, we recently discussed the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his last speech. We talked about looking toward the future. A future of rights and equality. A beautiful future.
I also see a beautiful future.
I have been to the mountaintop of Jewish summer camp. I have learned with great teachers while wearing flip flops and reeking of SPF 85. I have rejoiced in the beauty of Israeli dance with hundreds of people in one space. I have consumed the proverbial bug juice and I now continue to try to reproduce it – every meaningful, sweet-as-mountain-air, drop. We remove our shoes and wiggle our toes in the gravel. This is holy ground. It’s serious experiential education. As Heschel put it – we are praying with our feet.
I have been to the mountaintop of Jewish day school. I have watched sixth, seventh, and eighth graders equate 1960s Civil Rights with modern social justice issues. I have seen them grapple with the text of the Binding of Isaac. I have been moved, as their teachers helped them to sketch in chalk, what this prayer or that prayer means to them. They stomp their feet in the coordinated “Mr. O’Dell Shuffle” as we return the Torah to the ark, a dance named for their 8th Grade Judaic Studies teacher. Their shuffles, their teachers, and our Torah, turn the gym into holy ground.
I have been brought to a new mountaintop. This mountaintop is also revelatory, as I begin to feel and see the connections between camp and school in a way that I didn’t before Nadiv. As I chat with URJ Camp Coleman campers in the hallway at The Davis Academy, I’m transported to the dining hall at camp. I can feel the heat of hundreds of kids singing “Im Tirtzu Ain Zo Aggadah” – if you will it, it is not a dream – at the tops of their lungs. Hundreds of feet, skipping forward and then back, as they celebrate the Israeli harvest of strawberries. This, too, is holy ground.
I have been to the mountaintop and I can see the future of Jewish education. Take your shoes off, friend. We’re walking on holy ground and praying with our feet.