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By Fallon Rubin
One of the most important things that a Jewish summer camp can provide is a safe space for campers to discover their Jewish identity. Being a pluralistic camp, like Beber Camp, this can sometimes be difficult. We want to ensure that campers feel safe and challenged all at the same time.
Some campers come to camp with a vast knowledge of Judaism and know exactly what their place is or at least what their place could be in the Jewish community. Other campers come to camp and it is the first time they are experiencing a Jewish community in any capacity. Knowing that we have campers on both sides of the spectrum and everywhere in between, how can we help campers make a special Jewish connection that is unique to camp and them?
Every Shabbat at camp we have Friday night services, Saturday morning services, and Havdalah, and on one Shabbat each session, we have alternative services. Instead of doing our traditional Saturday morning service, we offer different options and campers get to choose which one they attend. The services we offer include: Dr. Seuss, Draw to Prayer, Nature, Superhero, Songs, and Yoga. Each service looks at the main prayers that we say every Saturday morning through a different lens. The campers develop a deeper understanding not only of the prayers we say, but also why we say them.
The outcome of having alternative services is three-fold. At the end of services we have poems from the Dr. Seuss service, picture interpretations of the prayers, superheroes that embody certain aspects of prayer, and campers with a better understanding of both the physical and spiritual world around them. Furthermore, we have created a culture of understanding that prayer does not necessarily have one definition. Prayer can be made personally significant even if it is not done in a traditional manner. We open up the campers’ eyes to realizing that prayer can and should become a part of their Jewish identity, but how prayer plays a role is completely up to them. The most imperative of the three results is that we are giving campers the opportunity to view themselves as flexible and adaptable beings. Allowing them to take something that they might not intrinsically relate to and change their understanding and connection to it, broadens their view of themselves. Camp is a great place for campers to not only learn who they are, but also who they can become.
Fallon Rubin is the Judaics Director at Beber Camp in Mukwonago, WI. This is her 4th year in this role and her 15th summer at camp. During the year, she works as the Youth Educator at Temple Ohabei Shalom in Brookline, MA.