According to Hasidic thinking the days of Elul are the time when “the King is in the field.” The metaphor follows that gaining an audience with the King during Tishrei is a whole to-do. We must travel to the capital city, arrange an appointment, and then get permission to enter the palace. It may be days or weeks before we are finally allowed to enter. And even then, when we do finally get to see the King, the audience is likely to be short and very formal. Lost among the throngs of people, it is hard to imagine it being a deeply personal interaction. Since very few of us actually live in the capital city, these royal surroundings we experience during the High Holidays makes us feel out-of-place. By the time we get there we might have even forgotten why we came to seek the audience of the King in the first place. It hardly seems like a good plan for a meaningful experience.
Once a year, the King leaves the capital to visit the various constituents of the Kingdom. According to the Rabbi Schneur Zalman (the first Lubavicher Rebbe) during Elul “anyone who desires is granted permission and can approach the King and greet the King. The King received them all pleasantly, and shows a smiling countenance to all” (Likkutei Torah, Re’eh 32b) Now a King can’t just enter a city unannounced. This explains the shofar. Here in the field the formality is transformed into familiarity. We the common folk are allowed to come out to greet the King and receive personalized blessings. During Elul, with limited effort, the King is accessible. We just need to go out and greet the King.
When I try to imagine that space of meeting the King in the field I am transported to rich memories from my youth in nature at camp. Jewish summer camp is an amazing place where many of us had our first experiences of spirituality, community, and personal connections to Jewish life.
In my six years working at the Foundation for Jewish Camp I am consistently amazed by the senior leadership at camp. Each of them in their own way play an incredible role in setting the stage for joyous Judaism in their camp utopia. While most of the year they are running a business called camp, when the time comes to move up to camp they are transformed. You will see many of them walking around their camps picking up trash as if you were in their living rooms. They treat camp as their home and they invite hundreds of people to sleep over. Walking around camp they know everyone’s names, their stories, and how to make personal connections. They decide who stays and who goes. They are responsible for so many lives, but they are not cowering behind their desks. Rather, they are out there on the playing on the baseball field. In the environment of camp the senior leadership is king, but camp is special because they know that their power is making room for others and being accessible. Each camp is creating an environment in which their campers and staff feel that they belong, make a difference, and are part of something bigger then themselves. We all owe the camp leadership a great deal. Thank you. In these moments we can experience the majesty of Elul.
Have a wonderful New Year.
I’ve been involved with the Foundation for Jewish Camp for a long time. I’m a Nadiv educator (working in a shared job between URJ Camp Coleman and The Davis Academy, a day school in Atlanta), I’ve worked on the Cornerstone Fellowship program for years, and I even worked in the NY office. As a result, I know many, many people involved in the programs. What’s awesome is when they come to visit me!
Recently, an Atlanta camp fair brought a number of my colleagues into town. First, my URJ 6 Points SciTech colleague (and former Coleman programmer) Robbie Berg, let me know he’d be in town. Since Robbie had visited Davis before, we discussed bringing him in to do something exciting for the middle school kids in Tefillah. More camps signed up for the camp fair, and the emails kept coming! Other camp people from around the country – my incubator friends – wanted to come teach at Davis! SciTech is just one of the latest crop of incubator camps – and Mara Berde from JCC Maccabi Sports Camp and Dan Baer from Camp, Inc. wanted to come and learn with the students at Davis. We worked out interest-based Tefillah, where each kid got a taste of the incubator camp offerings. Twenty minutes were dedicated to your topic of choice – SciTech, Business or Sports – and then 10 minutes to the other two options.
For 40 minutes, students scribbled ideas about their potential businesses and their “special sauce” secrets to success. Students squealed with delight at the SciTech Boker Big Bang pops and explosions, and students shouted with ruach for whomever bested them in rock-paper-scissors (which is apparently called Rochambeau on the West Coast). There were business conversations, scientific hypothesizing, and sportsmanship chatter. Each Incubator related their work to Jewish topics, such as philanthropy, ruach, caring for your body, and the daily morning blessing of thanks for being made a free person.
It just so happens that Mara and Robbie are two of the most influential educators I’ve ever had the pleasure to learn from and work with in my life, and Dan and I have also had positive interactions for years. What a blessing to be able to share these friends with my amazing students! What a cool school to trust me to bring in cool campy people, ready to make a difference and have some fun. I’m so glad that the Foundation for Jewish Camp keeps finding ways for me to share my friends, and their genius, with others!
Parenting in all generations has had its’ challenges, however in today’s digital society it has created a new world of parenting concerns—in addition to offline parenting. It’s back to school, and our children’s digital devices and online access is only going to increase in the coming days. How do we keep up? It is all about what happens behind the screens and offline parenting that is important.
It’s a fact, having “the talk” doesn’t only mean about the birds and the bees anymore. Before any child is handed a keypad of any kind, parents should discuss; digital citizenship, cyber-safety, how to report online abuse and above all your child needs to know that having any type of tech gadget is a privilege—not a right. If they abuse this privilege, there will be consequences. Having a family Internet safety contract in place is recommended.
Be very clear on your consequences and always follow through. It is important that your child know that as a parent you will be monitoring them. This way there are no surprises, it isn’t about not trusting them, it is about their safety and well-being.
Monitoring verses snooping
Your child’s safety is a priority. Monitoring is parenting. When safety trumps privacy, snooping is your last resort.
As I mentioned in an earlier article, many teens don’t tell their parents they are being bullied online for a variety of reasons. This can cause for emotional scarring that is unnecessary if addressed early.
You may notice behavioral changes such as:
- Secretive and withdrawn
- Change in appetite
- Changing friends
- Failing, underachieving in school
- Sadness and signs of depression
Keeping up with the latest digital trends
Kids and teens are usually ahead of their parents when it comes to apps and tech trends. An open dialogue with your kids is better than spying and snooping. This starts early with a genuine interest in their digital lives.
The truth is monitoring systems and parental controls are only useful to an extent. This is why it is imperative that your child is taught digital awareness offline so that when they are faced with difficult situations online they are better equipped to handle them. This is not to discourage parents from having monitoring programs in place, but you have to face the reality that especially teens are cyber-savvy and will find ways to escape monitoring systems. This is why it is so important they have cyber- skills to make good choices when you are not around—digitally.
New apps and social media sites
Just ask! Make it a habit to ask your kids if they have downloaded any new apps lately – or what their favorite sites are. Learn about their digital lives and where they cyber-surf. Make this a frequent conversation.
Want to find out more? Ask your child’s friends or your friends kids for the latest app or social media (networking) site they have joined or downloaded lately. Engage in a conversation of why they like it and what it offers. This will give you an idea of where other kids are hanging online. It’s amazing how much your child’s friend’s love to speak to parent’s—other than their own!
After SnapChat the big trend is the disappearing message apps that are saturating online stores and becoming increasingly popular with users of all ages.
It is not about the app, it is about having the knowledge to click-out when you know you are in a dangerous or risky area online or situation. We often hear about websites, such as CreepyPasta, only after there is a tragedy.
The fact is, although the site might not be where we want to have our kids lingering, it’s not the site that harmed the teenager. It’s the choices the teens make. It goes back to offline parenting.
Parenting our children offline is what will give our children online character and social behavioral skills online to make better choices when they are surfing cyberspace on their own. This includes decisions to download appropriate apps and use social media sensibly.
Friends, family and cyber-mentors: Share and share alike
The best tip for parents for online safety is keeping your offline communications open. Discussing digital safety, cyberbullying, online scams, password security, new apps, new sites and all things tech should be part of your family conversation same as how was your day at school or your summer camp adventures.
It’s a fact, most teens and parents are attached to their technology. I am confident there is something everyone can share at the dinner table about the Internet whether it is new website or app they learned about that day. Become each other’s cyber-mentor.
Let’s not wait for national headlines to have a conversation. Let’s not wait for another youth suicide to talk about the digital world.
Keeping up with technology is almost impossible, but keeping up with our child is not only possible – it’s necessary. It’s all about making it your priority—be sure you have several family dinners weekly and have those tech talks often, they are important to get behind the screens of your kids!
The buses have rolled away, the bags are unpacked, the phone calls between your campers and their friends are sending your phone bill sky high, and the countdown until next summer has already begun. As the days and weeks tick by, the Jewish calendar asks us to take pause and evaluate ourselves and account for our deeds. With Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur right around the corner we begin the process of looking at what we have done and how we have grown so we can do more and grow more. The High Holidays aren’t just about beating our chests in repentance; they are also about accepting responsibility for our individual and communal actions and learning from our past experiences.
With camp behind us and the holiday season ahead of us, now is the perfect time to talk with your kids about what they learned at camp and how they might grow and change in the months leading up to next summer. This sort of self-reflection isn’t easy for kids (or adults!) to do, but it can be very gratifying because it can make the whole family appreciate just how special camp is even more.
As you dip your apples in your honey (or your fresh fruit in silan and tehina, as in the recipe below) encourage conversation with your kids on what they learned over the summer. Self-reflection and growth is hard for all of us, but it is important to take the lessons from camp and talk about how they can be applied to challenges in the real world. How can the enjoyment of singing during Shabbat translate to finding meaning in Hebrew school? How can the tribulations of sleeping on a top bunk help you deal with a difficult math teacher? How can the creativity needed to design a cheer for color war help you discover what to write for your essay in English class? Discussing these types of situations with your kids can help them put their camp experience into context so that they can adapt, change, and grow into a better person.
“Halvah” Fruit dip
½ cup tehina
½ cup silan (date honey)
¼ cup chopped pistachios
Large platter of fresh and dried fruits (strawberries, mango, apples, dried figs, dried apricots)
1. With a tablespoon, scoop alternating spoons of tehina and silan onto a large platter.
2. Using a fork, swirl the tehin and silan together. Sprinkle with pistachios.
3. Serve with fruit platter.
After nine years as a camper and counselor at Massad Bet (of blessed memory), and one year as the Program Director of Camp Mesorah, I thought I knew all I needed to know about sleep-away camps.
There were cool kids and nerdy kids. Fun counselors and those who, well, let’s just say it was the Seventies and call it a day (or night- a very late night).
As a grown up (hah!) and member of the senior management team at OHEL, I have suddenly found myself deeply invested in a movement that I could not have seen coming, but a movement that is nonetheless here to stay- one of great pride and a source of joy for our community.
OHEL’s Camp Kaylie takes the previously unheard of and makes it sparkle. Rather than having one or two specially designated bunks for children with special needs, Kaylie fully integrates these campers into nearly all aspects of camp life.
Sleeping in the same bunk. Eating at the same camp table. Sharing in camp cheers. Figuring out how to make it work in sports, robotics, Jewish learning.
Camp Kaylie is a laboratory for life. We ALL have needs. No one is “normal”. Everywhere we go we need to learn to interact with others who are different than us. Of course Mr. and Mrs. Kaylie are the heroes for their vision, but the participants in this lab for life- the typical and non-typical campers, the staff, and most especially the parents are to be celebrated for their belief in the goodness of the human spirit. And God bless them, there is a waiting list to get in.
I mentioned the previously unheard of fully integrated bunks. Here’s a note written to me by one of our top educators this summer:
“One of the boys that came for Kaylie Kids (the three day trial for younger children) asked me in front of a few special needs kids “where are the special needs kids? My mom told me we would be helping special needs kids.
So I told him that at Camp Kaylie there isn’t a separate bunk labeled “DD”(Developmentally Disabled)” or “Special Needs” . I explained that at Camp Kaylie everybody is equal, everybody can have fun, everybody deserves the same opportunities, and the boy said that since he may not know which kids need that extra love and encouragement he will make sure to be extra nice and encouraging to everybody.”
Want to bottle that? There’s your holy water right there… we as a people have found a new way to elevate our lives and the lives of others- even during our summer months of rest.
How about this letter from a mother of a “typical” camper?
“As the summer starts coming to a close, we just wanted to let you know what an outstanding experience our son had in Camp Kaylie. Going in, we knew that this would be a special camp, and that he had the right personality and background for it.. But when we came up on Visiting Day and he proudly introduced us to EVERY member of his bunk, making sure to include the special campers with an inside joke or extra smile, then we knew there was something very special going on.
The experience carried beyond the last day of camp: although our son has always been good-natured, when he came home he was just a little more cooperative, a little more thankful for things, a bit kinder to his brother… Camp Kaylie made a difference, and it shows.”
Or this letter, from a counselor who couldn’t believe his eyes- literally:
“I want to share with you two short stories that I observed over the summer which had a great impact on me, and I am sure on other people who were in similar situations.
The first story occurred on the first Friday of the summer during the KFL (Kaylie Football Tournament). From the start my team was looking like a disaster. We had just enough players in order to have a game, and most of them were not so excited to play. I learned that my best wide receiver on my team was extremely homesick and was thinking about missing the game in order to sit and do nothing. Another one of my players had never played a game of football before and had certainly never caught a pass. A third player who happened to be “D.D.” was pretty uncoordinated and didn’t really know how to play the game. Well, I wasn’t going to let any of these obstacles get in the way of them having a good time, so I huddled up everyone on the team and told them that we were definitely going to win – and we were going to have a great time as well. I went over the basic rules with the two boys on my team who didn’t really understand football and with that the game started.
The first game started off a little surprising. We started off with a lead and the campers were getting really into it. I started getting them pumped up and a few minutes into the game – the boy who was homesick forgot about all of his problems and he was really getting into the game. We won the first game and by the end the boys were all smiles. By the end, our team eventually won the entire tournament. However, the fact that we won was not what was amazing. What was amazing was how we won. The quarterback of my team was absolutely not shy about throwing the ball to campers who didn’t look like they could possibly catch. In fact he threw many passes to the boys who had never played football before – typical and “D.D.” alike. By the end of the day, one of the special needs campers on my team who probably never caught a pass in his life finished off the game with a catch in the end zone! Another camper who had just learned to play football that day caught a touchdown giving us the lead in the second game and bringing us to the championship. These boys were not super athletes. However, just a few days into camp they were given the confidence to perform under pressure. And they succeeded more than I could have ever imagined. At first I thought that my quarterback was a righteous Peyton Manning. However, as camp went on I realized that he was just a regular kid who knew that the right thing to do was to pass the ball.
I would like to share with you one final incident. This one occurred during the horseback riding activity early on in the summer. While my campers were taking turns riding on the horses, one of the workers approached me. He wanted to know exactly what Camp Kaylie is all about. I explained to him it’s about integration and I went into a detailed discussion with him about the exact dynamics in camp. I explained to him about the various ratios. One of my typical campers jumped up and said that our bunk did not have that ratio. Then, he remarked, I don’t even know who in our bunk is D.D. The worker was a little bit confused. “How could he not know who has special needs?” he whispered to me. I responded to him that this is exactly what integration was all about. A week and a half into the summer, and my campers could not figure out who in my bunk was “typical” and who was “D.D”
These are lessons to be learned not from our day schools, nor our high schools, nor yeshivot or seminaries in Israel, but from our summer camps.
Now, how wonderful would the world be if all us adults acted that way? Even for a day. I’ll take just one day.
Shana Tova to all.
I’ll start with a confession. After writing these monthly blogs about summer camp for almost two years now, I still occasionally feel like a creature from outer space who’s landed on earth and has to have baseball or the Kardashians explained to him. You see, my parents never sent me to camp and, frankly, I never wanted to be sent. As a result, the experience is, indeed, alien to me. All to say that everything I know about camp I’ve been learning, vicariously, through my son Jonah.
He’s been attending CBB (Camp B’nai Brith) for the last three summers. And when my wife, Cynthia, and I picked him up a few weeks ago from his record 23 days and 22 nights away in The Laurentians, a picturesque setting about 90 minutes north of Montreal, I found it easier than ever to put myself in his shoes. Sure, I felt the predictable paternal mix of relief and joy at seeing him again, but I also noticed something in his expression that revealed how much camp had meant to him. He looked, in other words, a little lost, fawned over by his mother and me. It was as if he was thinking: should I be here or with my bunkmates in the woods? Even, the rash of fierce bug bites around his ankles and calves were quickly acknowledged and then dismissed as if they were a kind of team insignia, a badge of honour. His disorientation faded, though, as we prompted him to say good-bye to his counselors and more important, as his fellow campers sought him out for a hug or a high-five.
This is, as I’ve said before in this blog, a big deal for Jonah. He has autism and making and maintaining friendships remains his greatest challenge. I can only guess at what he was feeling when he heard his name shouted out by a peer in that crowded parking lot, but I can tell you what I felt: proud and hopeful.
For this feeling Cynthia and I have CBB, their entire staff, and especially their executive director Josh Pepin to thank for taking a chance on Jonah three summers ago (when he stayed a week with a shadow) and for continuing to increase their hopes for and expectations of him. CBB has always seen meeting my son’s special needs as an opportunity. In this respect, the camp has, in my mind, lived up to the best sense of the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam or “repairing the world.”
I also confess to having to be reminded repeatedly that as daunting as that imperative may sound, it is invariably accomplished when we recognize those needs we are best able to address and then act. In short, when we do what we can to help. The Sam Lazarus Fund is an inspiring example of just such an approach to repairing the world. It started, tragically, when Sam Lazarus, a 25-year-old Montrealer working with children in an orphanage in Ghana, died of cerebral malaria in 2004. His mother Janet Torge, a Montreal broadcaster and writer, and his older brother Riel Lazarus, an archivist and researcher for film and TV, also based in Montreal, wanted “to do something” to commemorate Sam’s life. The result was a fund that would give kids who couldn’t otherwise afford to go to camp the opportunity to spend their summer at the YMCA’s Camp Kanawana, also located in The Laurentians.
It was a perfect fit since Sam loved working with kids – he was a camper and a staff member at Camp Kanawana for most of his childhood. The fit became even more perfect when a family friend suggested they also have an annual fundraiser every August, featuring a street hockey tournament. Sam was, according to his brother, a legendary street hockey goalie, albeit with a penchant for letting the occasional goal slip between his legs, the space otherwise known in hockey parlance as the five-hole.” Nine months after Sam Lazarus’s death, The Five-Hole Sam Street Hockey Jamboree or Sam Jam was born. Now in its 11th year, Sam Jam has raised around $230,000 and sent more than fifty kids to camp. The kids’ sponsorship or “campership” is kept anonymous so they are not singled out at camp. There is also a special effort made to send recipients back who want to go. “If they’ve had a great experience there, we don’t want to leave them out the next year for financial reasons,” Riel Lazarus said.
The street hockey tournament, which started with two teams, now has eight and the event has expanded every year. “We didn’t start all this with much of a motive. We were in a bit of a haze in that time after Sam’s death. We were just doing stuff,” Riel added.
Which is, come to think of it, a pretty good definition of tikkun olam: “doing stuff” that recognizes and addresses a need in the world.
For more information about the latest hockey tournament and the Sam Lazarus Fund you can go to the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ysamjam. Or visit the Camp Kanawana website at: http://www.ymcakanawana.com.
As the summer drew to a close, I took a picture with the other Nadiv Educator at my camp. He’s a 6th grader now, and he spends his whole year with me. He’s a full-summer camper at Coleman, a camp with mostly 4-weekers, and he’s a student at Davis.
— SBB (@sbbEZas123) August 3, 2014
When I told him he was also a Nadiv Educator, the conversation went like this:
SBB: A, did you notice that you’re a Nadiv Educator, also?
A: What do you mean?
SBB: You spend your whole year with me. You’re at camp all summer and at Davis all year long!
A: Yes, but I don’t *work* at Davis.
SBB: I’m not going to tell your teachers that!
This partnership is fun, and kind of funny.
Fun, because I’m surrounded by dedicated educators, clergy and staff – and delightful children – all year long.
Fun, because I get to do cool things like take the whole 8th grade up to camp for two full days.
Fun AND funny, because people tend to listen when I refer to the Torah as “Our Very Best Friend the Torah” (a nickname for the 5 Books of Moses that I got from a co-staff member at a camp in Wisconsin).
Funny, because I can compare a 6th grader to myself.
Funny, because when you’re the campy person at school, you tend to write lines like this in emails: “I’m totally coming at this from a place of campy ruach in song session (as opposed to Tefillah) which is nearly deafening in terms of exuberance and joy.” May I present to you: the combination of academic nerdery and experiential education.
This job is extremely fast-paced, sometimes excruciatingly so. But as long as I’m working on stuff like Tefillahpalooza, Interfaith Volunteering, and innovative, large-scale educational experiences like Yom Partisans, I’m up to the challenge. I can’t wait to see what kind of cool stuff I’ll get to learn and teach this year!
The summer Torah portion, Matot, opens with Moses giving the following instructions to the Israelite tribal heads: “If a man makes a vow to the Lord or makes an oath to prohibit himself, he shall not violate his word; according to whatever came out of his mouth, he shall do.” In other words, keep your promises and do not break your word.
Our words and promises carry great weight. Not only should we think carefully about what we say and how we say it but we should also carefully consider promises that we make before giving our word in order to make sure that we can fulfill these obligations.
At camp, children have an incredible opportunity to learn these lessons. Living in close quarters, having to make and keep friendships, and having to communicate with peers and staff without the help of parents can be challenging. Our campers must gain self-awareness and develop and understanding and tolerance for all kinds of people. This is not always easy of course.
On the first day of this session, I joined a cabin group while they were creating their cabin brit (agreement) and got to participate in a process by which the cabin created a shared code of ethics to live by during the session. Everyone contributed items that they felt were important to make the cabin harmonious and have a fun time during camp. I’m always impressed by how well campers can articulate what kind of cabin environment they hope to have and how well they understand what they must do individually and as a group to achieve this end; this cabin was no exception. As I walked around camp with a visitor later in the session, I saw that the cabin I had worked with on that first day of camp was awarded the degel yarok (green flag), signaling that they were the cleanest cabin in the village. This is a great indication that the cabin was functioning well and living up to the promises that they made on the first day of camp.
It’s hard to believe that our summer season is quickly coming to an end. However, it is exciting to think about all the valuable skills and lessons that our campers have learned during their time at camp, and the opportunities they have had to reflect on and keep the promises that they made in their cabin brit to create a fun, safe, and inclusive environment over the course of their session here. And hopefully this will better inform how they build friendships and community as they enter into their coming school year.
The following is the third in a three-part series on how to help safely navigate the world of social media with your kids from Sue Scheff, a mother, author, parent advocate, and expert in internet safety education.
Summer camp is not only a time to meet new friends and people, your children will have memories and experiences for a lifetime. Many will want to capture them in photos and videos – especially in today’s digital world.
Sharing your summer experiences with friends and family is expected, however when it comes to the World Wide Web, precautions need to be taken.
Over-sharing is a common mistake that many people of all ages make on social media.
Prior to posting videos, talk to your child about things they need to consider before posting each photo and video:
- Setting-up a private group for their camp group viewing only
- Double checking their privacy settings
- Thinking about who is in the photos/videos? Will they mind their picture on a social media site?
- Sharing selectively
- Creating an online photo album entitled 2014 summer camp
The Teens and Screens survey revealed that many young people are still over-sharing personal information. This is a very serious concern that parents need to discuss with their tweens and teens. For example:
- 50% posted their email address
- 30% posted their phone number
- 14% (which is 14% too many) posted their home address
Although 77% said they understand that what is posted online is public and permanent, they are still risking their keystrokes by sharing personal information.
Listen up, 80% of teens and tweens have had conversations with their parents about online safety.
So where are we losing cyber-ground?
We have to lead by example.
Studies have revealed that parents are the number one influence on their children. You may think they aren’t listening to you; they are and more importantly they are watching you.
Many parents are over-sharing.
As parents monitor their children online, kids are snooping on their parents – virtually. Have you thought before posting your pictures and comments?
What some parents share online:
- Party pictures that you would caution your kid’s not to post
- Swimsuit pictures that may not be appropriate for public viewing
- Personal family conflicts that could be embarrassing to your child
- Online contention with a friend (when threads turn ugly, and a parent engages in it)
- Mixed messages or quotes such as, “If Box Tops for Education were on wine labels, my kid’s school would be rich!”
- Sexual innuendos, profanity and content that simply is not what parents should be modeling as digital behavior
- Dating escapades of single parents
Using the excuse that you are an adult is not good enough. First and foremost, you are a parent. Your keystrokes matter. Your actions speak louder than words. Watch this important video:
Raising smart cyber-citizens start with parents. As I’ve said before, digital citizenship is a priority in today’s cyber-world. It will determine your child’s future, from their college to their employment and possibly their relationships.
For a final thought, keep in mind, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Clean-up your friends list on your social networking sites
- Keep an open digital dialogue open with your child
- Less is more. If a photo seems questionable, don’t risk it. The 15-minutes of views is not worth years of humiliation – convey this to your child and remember it for yourself
- Think about how your children will view what you post before you post it
Back in October, we tried something new at the day school half of my job: Tefillahpalooza. You can read the post I wrote about it on the Canteen.
In conversations about how best to
#nadiviate (it’s a thing!), bridging my work between camp and school, my Coleman colleagues became enamored with the idea of having our own Coleman Tefillahpalooza. Another conversation about revitalizing tefillah at camp led us to creating a program called Hot ShoTz (a Sho”Tz is short for Shaliach Tzibur, the title of a service leader who represents the community by shepherding people through the prayer process.).
Our Assistant Program Director Scott Gellman, an HUC Rabbinical student and a Coleman person for decades, helped to develop all of the answers, and he had his work cut out for him. First, what was Hot ShoTz going to be about? Who would do it? How would we develop skills, not just as a ShoTz, but as an emerging leader in camp? What kind of materials would we present to our Hot ShoTz? And, what would be their final project?
Hot ShoTz consisted of our programming staff, songleading staff, and assorted volunteers. All were interested in developing prayer and leadership skills. Some had just arrived at camp for the first time in May, many were seasoned NFTY/youth group/camp graduates, and some have been counselors and programmers for years. Formulated and led by different clergy, under the watchful eye of Scott, Hot ShoTz sessions on Shabbat helped teach skills and examine the meaning and intention behind our services at camp.
As summer was drawing to a close, we knew the Hot ShoTz were ready to shine. Each participant was asked to choose a buddy and to prepare a Tefillah experience to be offered to a small group of campers, in their final project: Tefillahpalooza. In addition to 6 faculty offerings, there were 9 Hot ShoTz services to choose from at camp that morning!
The logistical challenges of sending the 650 members of our community to 15 different services were many: Campers are always supervised by staff at camp, even on a simple walk to another location. Locations were strewn all around camp. Campers needing to get to the lake or the pool after being out in the ropes course. What if it rains? But with careful work by Scott, and with the help of sign-ups with “Concert Stickets” (ticket stickers with name of service, location, unit and bunk number), everybody distributed with ease.
For 50 minutes after breakfast on Thursday morning, our Hot ShoTz (and our faculty) showed their stuff, and offered equally engaging experiential Tefillah programs in areas as diverse as playdough prayer, writing their own stories prayer, Cold-Pray (a Coldplay service), Improv, and “The Theatre is Our Temple,” where campers had a chance to examine and discuss movie and TV clips that portrayed Judaism.
After a summer of hard work and learning, everybody in the Coleman community got to see just how hot our Hot ShoTz are. And we can’t wait to have another Tefillahpalooza next summer!