by Rachel Landman, faculty
We arrive at camp, unpack our bags, meet new friends, prepare tirelessly for Fight Song, go on Trip Day, celebrate Shabbat, do daily activities, compete in Mini-Maccabiah, go to Banquet and then go home. The summer at Crane Lake Camp is filled with fun and exciting new events and opportunities, and each session flies by with the blink of an eye. It is often not until we return home and rest up from the eventful summer that we have time to reflect on all the amazing things we did and people we met during the summer.
After spending the past 13 summers at Crane Lake, both as a camper and staff member, I returned this year for just one week as a faculty member. Because I have just one week at camp, I am challenging myself to live by value of this week, Hakarat Hatov, noticing the good. The second I stepped onto camp, I was overwhelmed with the amount of good around me, and realized that it is impossible not to be grateful for the special bubble that is created each summer. Although I have so much gratitude for Crane Lake, I find it sometimes challenging to notice and appreciate all the good I see at camp in each moment.
As I teach Kesher (the Jewish learning courses that Chaverim and Olim choose each week), I am challenging the campers to notice parts of the natural world at camp that they might otherwise ignore. Crane Lake is located in the picturesque Berkshire Mountains, filled with beautiful sights, sounds and smells. Because of all the excitement and commotion at camp, we rarely take time to appreciate our natural surroundings. It is not unless we have the intention to take a break and look around that we will have Hakarat Hatov and notice the good in the environment around us. This appreciation and gratitude can be a reminder of our responsibility as a Jewish community, to be caretakers and protect all of creation for future generations. Without understanding and appreciation for our surroundings, we can not live up to our responsibility as environmental stewards.
Although as a camper I was much more focused on my unit’s fight song, soccer tournaments and making friends, my summers at Crane Lake taught me to appreciate the outdoors through a Jewish lens. Reflecting on what motivated me to work on Environmental Policy as a Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center, I realized it was my summers at Crane Lake where I learned about environmental stewardship that lead me to this work. It is because of the experiences I had star gazing with my bunk mates or praying as a community in the outdoor sanctuary that I am called to do the work I do from a Jewish perspective. As a camper, I was often distracted by my friends or looking forward to the next activity and did not fully appreciate those experiences in the moment, but looking back they provide such powerful and positive memories.
Rachel Landman is a proud Crane Lake alumna, having spent 9 summers as a camper and served as soccer coach and Teva Director. She currently works as a Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, focusing on environmental policy, foreign policy, and interfaith relations. Her favorite meal at Crane Lake is Teva pizza and s’mores!