Our Jewish Values — Commitments #1 to #5 Explained
We have always considered our camps (Pembroke, Tel Noar and Tevya) to be involved in the informal Jewish education business (shh, don’t tell the campers). This began with my grandparents, Eli and Bessie, who believed that Jewish education in all of its forms was an important means to strengthening the Jewish community. In this, and my next, post I’ll explain in more detail the ten commitments that comprise the philosophy and values that guide our camps.
1. Friendship and Teamwork (חברות).
We see these as profoundly Jewish values. We try to nurture in bunk life the closeness, fun, sharing, working together, and resolving of issues which helps campers learn how to build and sustain relationships. We challenge campers to create and excel as teams and groups, and encourage older campers to interact with and support younger campers. Our staff models for the campers how to honor and respect each individual, be empathic and compassionate, and contribute to the community. We help our campers associate Jewish living with intimate friendship and collaboration.
2. Diversity and Inclusiveness (קהילה).
We believe the culture of the camps reflects the kaleidoscopic Jewish world we all live in. Our campers are from different Jewish backgrounds, and our staff members reflect the different Jewish cultures of the United States, Israel, and the rest of the world. Campers understand that it’s okay to be different. They learn from each other’s differences, and are empowered and challenged to discover who they are as Jews in a safe and affirming Jewish setting.
3. Shabbat (שבת).
We place great emphasis on the uniquely Jewish experience of Shabbat – the energy and helping which goes into the preparation for Shabbat, the incredible community ruach of shared prayer, song, and dance; the special intimacy and feeling of leisure on Shabbat day; the sensory beauty of the Havdalah ceremony. Each camp celebrates Shabbat with its own traditions. It is a highlight of the summer for many campers, and many alumni cite it as among their most enduring memories from camp.
4. Learning (לימוד).
We want campers to gain a deeper understanding of what Judaism is about – to apply Jewish thought and values to their lives and to contemporary issues, to learn what meaning lies behind Jewish rituals, to be engaged and inspired by Jewish stories and personalities. Through Culture classes and discussing the Torah portion on Shabbat we help campers connect with the richness of Jewish sources, be able to articulate what Jewish ideas and values are, and begin thinking for themselves and expressing their own opinions, beliefs, and questions.
5. Rituals (מסורת).
We select Jewish rituals which nurture in campers a special feeling of Jewish community, a sense of gratitude for the abundance they have, and a basic respect for Jewish tradition. In addition to our celebration of Shabbat we open each day with short morning prayers, say Birkat HaMazon at each meal, and observe the laws of Kashrut. We offer campers basic Jewish skills for a lifetime, as we challenge them to begin developing their own personal understanding of what holiness might mean.