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Reflections on Our First Shabbat

by Rabbi Devorah Marcus
Rabbi Marcus is the Associate Rabbi at Temple Beth El of Great Neck, NY and a faculty member this summer at Crane Lake Camp.

After days of packing, arriving, unpacking, name-gaming, group-mixing, swim-testing, program writing, and community building, our first Shabbat came barreling towards us at the speed of camp. I love that even though I was a young camper over twenty years ago, camp Shabbat is just as beautiful, just as inspired, and just as sacred as I remember. For returning staff, and campers, it’s the joy of being clean and wearing our Shabbat best. For new campers, it’s the overwhelming happiness that sweeps them up and initiates them into a world where Shabbat means something infinitely more connected than their average Shabbat at home. I cannot describe the unbelievable beauty of watching as our Kabbalat Shabbat services came to a close and a community of nearly 500 Jewish children and young adults put their arms around each other to sing our prayers for peace. If anyone has doubts about the vibrancy and potential of Reform Judaism in the 21st century they need only come to any of the remaining eight Shabbats of the summer to see what our camps are creating and what incredible power our future holds.

As a rabbi, I first found my connection to Judaism and our tradition amongst the redwoods at a URJ summer camp. The spark I first found in those redwoods, in that community, with those teachers, counselors, leaders, and rabbis is alive and thriving here in the Berkshires. From our youngest first time campers to our oldest senior staff, our first Shabbat was one of community, connection, spirit and holiness. For me, it was a time to rekindle that spark and re-stoke the fiery passion for Jewish learning and Jewish living that I first experienced so long ago in a URJ camp so far away. As we gathered to end Shabbat on Havdallah Hill, I shared a teaching with our camp community on our Jewish quality of the week. This week is ometz – courage. I told our campers that it takes courage to be a Jew and to commit themselves to living a Jewish life and that I hoped they would find their ometz for Jewish living in their time here at camp. This is only my second summer as faculty at Crane Lake Camp but as I saw our campers end Shabbat as it began – with their arms around each other in song and prayer, I discovered a great truth in my heart. The camp is different from the one I grew up in, but the spirit is the same. I am truly blessed to have another camp I can call “home” and to be fortunate enough to be able to have shared in this first summer of 2012 Crane Lake Shabbat.