This third in a series of four blog entries, “Why Camp?” will examine some of the benefits that Jewish residential camping can provide for children based on the four part mission of Camp Tawonga. To read part one, click here. To read part two click here.
Part 3: Tikkun Olam- a partnership with nature
It is fitting that Earth Day was recently celebrated since a huge part of a camper’s experience of going to camp is being outside, going on adventures with friends in the outdoors and learning to love the natural world with all the benefits it provides.
At Camp Tawonga and countless other camps, simply being there is a literal breath of fresh air. Campers leave the city and suburbs, where they spend 90% of their time, far behind and arrive at a bucolic, peaceful oasis where many of the other goals this blog series has highlighted are allowed to blossom and flourish. Removed from the constant pull of technology and returned to a comfortably rustic style of living, children can connect to more timeless truths. They can appreciate a refreshing dunk in a natural body of water and marvel at the beauty of a sunset, produced not by special effects but simply by the gentle brushstroke of the creator.
Beyond simply enjoying being outdoors, an experience at camp can help campers connect to the deep and ancient Jewish traditions of shomrei adamah (guarding the earth) and tikkun olam (repairing the world). When campers go with their bunks on backpacking trips in the incomparable backcountry of Yosemite National Park, they not only forge deeper bonds with each other but also learn from our staff about the wilderness ethic of “leave no trace” as a way to take care of all places they visit.
Campers also learn that nature is not something that can be taken for granted. More than twenty years ago, Tawonga led a fight in the national forest that surrounds our camp to hold off aggressive logging companies and preserve the land for generations to come. Campers help our maintenance staff with forestry and fire suppression work to learn about responsible management methods.
Campers will come home unconcerned with a grass stain on their shirt and some dirt under their nails. Campers will tell their parents about their most spiritual moment at camp, often not at a formal prayer program, but rather on a solo sit at sunset, spread across a ridge overlooking a valley side by side with their bunkmates, silently staring in awe at the majesty of creation laid out before them, and contemplating their place in it.
What a camp experience can help a child realize is that we are not apart from nature, but rather a part of nature and that there is so much to be gained from engaging in outdoor experiences.
As the Foundation for Jewish Camp shared with the community earlier this year, “Think Outside, No Box Necessary!”