Author Archives: Sara Beth Berman

Sara Beth Berman

About Sara Beth Berman

Sara Beth Berman has been working as a Jewish educator since a few weeks after her own Bat Mitzvah. Sara Beth, who is proud to have two first names, received her BS in Psychology from the University of Florida and her MA in Jewish Education from the Davidson School at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is elated to be the Nadiv Educator at URJ Camp Coleman and the Davis Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. Previously, Sara Beth served as the Associate Director of Storahtelling, and has spent time working in the offices of the Foundation for Jewish Camp and Camp Ramah in the Berkshires. Sara Beth has taught at a variety of synagogues in Florida, New York, and Connecticut, and served in Human Resources at Penguin Group (USA). She has staffed a variety of summer programs, including USY on Wheels, Camp Ramah Darom and Camp Interlaken JCC. She likes to teach in or near the water and use sidewalk chalk as often as possible. At school, Sara Beth relishes the time she gets to spend on experiential projects, both large scale and class-based. At camp, her favorite activities are lake activities, laughing, facilitating the professional development of staff members, delving into the world of Israel Education…and anything with snacks.

Israel and Israelis

After months of anticipation, I arrived in a slightly damp and chilly Israel for the annual training of summer shlichim (Israeli counselors) and the annual training of Union for Reform Judaism Israel Educators. I arrived a few days early with a busy schedule in mind:  Shabbat with a former Israeli co-counselor who is like family, observance of Yom HaZikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day).

While I was in Israel, I saw a number of things. I ate all of my favorite foods. I watched a ridiculous and humorous McDonald’s commercial while watching TV with my “family.”I swayed with thousands of people in Tel Aviv’s Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square) to commemorate the somber memorials of Yom HaZikaron. I sang, danced, and shouted with glee with thousands more in downtown Jerusalem on the very next night, Yom HaAtzmaut.

The transition from Zikaron to Atzmaut, tempered by the horrifying news of a pigua (terrorist attack) in Boston, really struck me. How can you be so sad, mourning thousands of Israel’s fallen in the very place where Rabin was assassinated, and then, in just one day, transition into singing and dancing outside of City Hall in Jerusalem?

The answer came at the Israeli staff seminar. The delegations from the different camps, chosen from a large applicant pool, are excited to teach about Israel. They have stories, histories, interests, and life experiences that are uniquely their own. Uniquely Israeli, but also uniquely individual. Each person is different. And just like they each bring their own experience, they also represent the full life and times of Israel. They remembered their own family members and friends on Yom HaZikaron, celebrated their country on Yom HaAtzmaut, and talked about how to share their stories with their campers over the course of the summer. Memory and joy for the whole country and people of Israel is important. So too is the ability of each shaliach/shlicha to share those memories and those joys with their campers this summer.

The answer is that the transition from Zikaron to Atzmaut became MY transition, too. Because I’ve lived in Israel, loved in Israel, eaten in Israel, commemorated in Israel, and learned in, from and about Israel, those stories and transitions are mine, too.

Israel is for all of us at Jewish summer camp. My hope is that those memories and joys will become the memories and joys of the campers who receive them this summer.

Posted on April 30, 2013

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The iPod Service: Camp, School and Tech

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.

“The Barchu is about being called to prayer” was how the prayer was introduced.  Carly Rae Jepsen’s saccharine tones skipped out of the speakers.

IPod

Photo by Walrick (Erick Ribeiro) GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Posted on March 18, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Praying With Our Feet

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.

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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.

Posted on February 13, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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