by Rabbi Marci Bellows, faculty
“You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to ignore it.” (Pirke Avot, 2:21)
No matter one’s particular viewpoints or political leanings, we are undoubtedly living through a time of national division, strife, and challenge. So many of us try to remain hopeful – we dream of unity, of cooperation, and of having a joint sense of purpose. Nonetheless, it is hard to feel optimistic about achieving these admittedly lofty goals.
But, then, I step foot on the inspiring, energetic grounds of Crane Lake Camp.
I feel so fortunate to be serving as faculty for my seventh summer at URJ’s Crane Lake Camp. Over all these years (my first summer on faculty was 2010), I’ve been repeatedly struck by the ways in which CLC is a holy community filled with warmth, “menschlichkeit,” and kindness.
The entire camp focuses on one particular Jewish value each week throughout the summer, and this past week’s middah was Netzach, or “Perseverance.” Reminders about netzach find their ways into t’filah (daily worship services), meal-times, limud learning sessions, and even passing conversations. Finally, the theme is woven into the Erev Shabbat service on Friday night, which was beautifully led this week by our Nitzanim campers.
Our youngest campers viewed our liturgy through the lens of perseverance, and a number of them spoke about the repeated examples of netzach in our people’s story, most notably in the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Even our precious 8 and 9 year olds grasped the profundity in the fact that our ancestors could have given up from despair; they could have turned away from Judaism and from God after so many centuries of servitude and slavery in Mitzrayim. And, yet, somehow, the Israelites did not give up, and they did not abandon their faith and hope.
And how many times in our history has this perseverance and endurance ultimately ensured our success and survival? Our Jewish lives today in the 21st century are, of course, the living proof.
For further proof, and for tons of hope, just look at our campers. They are genuinely kind, caring, and compassionate individuals. The campers work together on art projects, they practice good sportsmanship in their activities, and they encourage each other’s creativity and growth. They look out for each other, they take in all the teachings from the rabbis, cantors, and educators who serve on the faculty each week, and they embody the best of what we can be as Jews and – even more so – as human beings.
So, I encourage you, when you feel a bit of that cloud of worry or gloom start to creep in from reading or watching too much of the day’s news, to think about our future Jewish leaders. They are growing up, right this moment, at Crane Lake Camp. They are learning about the importance of netzach, of persevering through life’s challenges and struggles, and they are growing into inspiring mensches who will, indisputably, have a significant impact on repairing our world.
Rabbi Marci Bellows is the spiritual leader at Congregation Beth Shalom Rodfe Zedek in Chester, CT. A native of Skokie, IL, and a graduate of Brandeis University, she was ordained at HUC-JIR, NY, in 2004. She treasures her husband, Seth, their son, Spencer, and their three cats. This is her seventh summer on faculty at Crane Lake!