By Rabbi Michael Farbman
Temple Emanuel of Greater New Haven
Every summer, I get to spend two weeks at URJ Camp Eisner, serving as a Rabbi on Faculty. Every day, I get to teach and play, and teach through play, and enjoy the magnificent Jewish “bubble” that the camp creates for every child, every teen and every adult that comes through the gates. While it is a lot of work, and I feel like I need a vacation when I get back home, I wouldn’t change it for the world! A few years ago at a conference, I was given a big badge which said “Because of Camp I...,” offering me the chance to find my own way to end the sentence. I wrote, “...know the future leaders of our movement.” I still keep it on my desk, as a reminder of how just a few weeks at a Jewish summer camp can help shape the future leaders of our people.
Over the last few years, Camp Eisner/Crane Lake, and now 6 Points Sci-Tech, have honored Temple Emanuel by sending a large number of our kids to camp. As a small community we couldn’t compete with larger Northeast synagogue numbers, but when you look at the percentage of our kids that go to Jewish camp, our numbers are truly impressive. In addition to URJ camps, our students attend Camp Laurelwood, as well as a number of other Jewish and non-Jewish camps. Why does it matter? Here are the words of one of our parents, Sharon Feuerstein:
“Jewish sleep away camp is not Hebrew School in the summer. It is a chance for Jewish kids to have fun, and to be surrounded by others that share a common bond. They get to think about, safely question and better understand how Judaism is a part of their everyday lives, not just about going to services. They got a sense of how they fit into the larger world around them — and how they can make important contributions to this world. While at Jewish camp, they get the experience of knowing how to take care of themselves, at the same time as caring for others. They get music and Shabbat – a day of rest, a day of community, a day filled with lots of song and dance, a day that is different from the rest of the week so that they have space and time to relax. They get freedom from their hectic outside worlds filled with computers, iPhones, Instagram, AP exams, sports tryouts and so many other commitments. Lastly, and most importantly, they make the most amazing friends.”
The summer is not here just yet, but I have been dreaming of camp all winter, and all the wonderful possibilities it will give our children. I can’t wait for my annual ice cream party with Temple Emanuel kids at Camp Eisner.