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.
“Call me maybe?” I raised my eyebrows as I pondered the implications of asking kids to maybe, if they feel like it, engage in prayer. Every head was bopping around to the song. OK…OK, I can handle this. Actually, this is…fun. This is fun!
Just as this JTA piece on tech in camp was going to press, we were preparing to have an all-middle school iPod service at the Davis Academy.
I was, I am, and I always will be looking for good ways to engage my communities in tefillah, in prayer. The creative and exciting programming that I have seen in my many years at camp ran the range from quietly standing at the edge of a lake to chanting loudly as a room echoed with a thunderstorm of voices. Some of my more far-out tefillah experiences included snacks, scrolls, markers, chalk, mindful movement, and jumping, in unison and in complete silence.
How would the classic URJ Camp Coleman iPod service change if it was led by the kids and not the counselors? We set out to answer this question at The Davis Academy last week. The community is growing used to my outside-of-the-box (AKA camp-style) programming during tefillah. They’re also getting used to the incredibly serious and thoughtful debrief questions I like to ask, which sometimes deeply engage the kids, and other times, get the kids to see their teachers as thoughtful, spiritual beings.
As each advisory group gathered in a circle on the “gymagogue” floor, iPods in hand, they were poised and ready to leap. First, they had to figure out the meaning of the prayer on the page called out to them. Then, they had to find a song that expressed the same ideas. Finally, a select group of faculty chose a few songs per prayer, playing them for about 30 seconds over the loudspeakers.
Kids were poised, ready to jump, scurrying across the gym and begging to know what the next prayer would be. One group cued up “All You Need Is Love” in anticipation of Ahavah Rabbah, which is about God’s great love.
At the end of tefillah, I heard the following things:
“What do you mean it’s over?”
“Can’t we do one more prayer?”
“That was fun,” they said. “We should do this more often.”
And, from a teacher:
“They were SO into it!”
Camp and school came together that day. And they were SO into it.