Good morning from Camp George, on Maple Lake in Parry Sound, Ontario. The Reform movement is famous for its summer camps, and Camp George is the only URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) camp in Canada – which makes it very special, not unlike our Temple, the only Canadian URJ congregation east of Ontario. The setting is spectacular – classic Canadian cottage country – and the ruach (spirit) is equally great.
As soon as I returned to Canada, I knew I wanted to send my kids here and to come here as camp rabbi. Camp rabbis, cantors and educators rotate into camp for a week or more at a time, a lot like camp doctors. The difference is, we come in groups. This week, I’m here with two educators and two others rabbis from different congregations and schools, and together we are planning and leading activities for kids ages 8-18. So far, I’ve led a teen discussion on religion and environmentalism (in which we tackled the age-old question: why did God create mosquitoes?) and was part of a program for 12 and 13 year olds on sexuality and diversity. Tonight I’ll be leading a “choose your own tefillah” session that I’m calling “Jews singing the blues in canoes: pray while you paddle.” On shabbat, we will help the kids plan their own services, and I’ll do an arts & crafts program where younger kids will decorate their pillowcases with nighttime prayers.
Being with kids and using our creative juices together is wonderful. Equally good – and incredibly valuable – is the community I find here. It includes everything from shared sermon brainstorming to knowing I can count on colleagues to keep an eye on my kids, and doing the same for theirs. It’s a mini-kibbutz for a week and a half, and it reminds me what I love about informal Jewish education, and living Jewish values. We are making Jewish memories and strengthening our movement for generations to come – mosquitoes and all!