Jewish Peoplehood at Camp

0802_110811-FJC_x46The Jewish values of Klal Yisrael and Am Yisrael speak to an idea of Jewish peoplehood and Jewish communal unity that are often described in the past tense, as some relic of days gone by.  At Camp Tawonga, in this moment, these values are alive, and flourishing among the Jewish camping community.

This summer, Tawonga endured a tragic incident that claimed the life of one of our beloved staff members.  This experience has been unbelievably sad and trying for everyone who is part of this large, loving and caring community.

When a tragedy strikes it is easy to shrivel up and shut out those around us.  Similarly, when something happens far away, it can be easy to thank our lucky stars it did not affect us directly and move on.  Our Jewish tradition teaches us to ignore this path, and to seek help when in need and to give support when those in your circle need it most.

From the moment that our community began hurting, grieving and being in need of help, it came.  No one decided to simply be grateful that they could go on unaffected in their own lives; instead, they took the ideas of Klal Yisrael and Am Yisrael to heart and reached out.

Local therapists and grief counselors from our community and from places like The Bay Area Jewish Healing Center and Jewish Family and Children’s Services offered support immediately and came to our remote location to help us in a time of need.

Our “neighborhood” camps in California like URJ Camp Newman, Camp JCA Shalom, Ramah California, Camp Hess Kramer and many more  – sent condolence cards, said Kaddish at their services and even donated to us one of their holy ark’s.

Camps from around North America sent messages of strength and condolence.  In the midst of their busy summer seasons, many offered to send us their staff if they were needed.  The Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jewish Community Center Association, who provide support and guidance on movement levels across Jewish camping, reached out immediately to support us.

Many local rabbis were the first to call.  Rabbi Dev Noily and Rabbi Chai Levy joined our community to lead services and offer support.  Rabbi Levy wrote a wonderful piece after her time with us.

This entry could stretch on endlessly about the people and organizations that continually offer support to our Jewish community.  We will absolutely reach out when we are able to express our deepest and sincerest gratitude to them all.

We read week after week in this blog about the transformative power that the Jewish communal experience known as summer camp can offer.  We read about the joy, the fun and the lifelong bonds that are created.  We learn about the incredible communities each camp creates for its campers and staff.  Through the many contributors herein, we continually discover the larger community of Jewish camps  across North America.

If the measure of a community is how it responds during times of crisis, our Jewish camping community is rock solid.

Posted on August 2, 2013

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