This summer at Crane Lake, I have gotten pretty good at differentiating between accents. Even over a crackling walkie talkie, I can make a distinction between the Australian, Scottish, and English members of our AV team in just a few words. As proud as I may feel of this incredibly useful newfound skill, there are many other reasons to welcome staff and campers from different countries into the bubble. We get to learn about different cultures, international politics, and foreign languages. Most importantly, though, we internalize that every member of the Crane Lake community, no matter where they come from, is part of one big family.
This sentiment might sound like a modern one that sprung up in our increasingly connected and technological world, but it actually finds its roots in the Torah. This week’s (double) portion, Matot-Masei, introduces internationalism to the Jewish people. Two tribes, the Reubenites and the Gadites, request permission to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan river, where there is ample grazing for their cattle, rather than settling in the Promised Land. Moses agrees to their request on the condition that these two tribes still help fight in the wars required to conquer the land of Israel.
With this negotiation, a dynamic is established that we see throughout Jewish history. No matter where we as a people have settled, whether in Morocco, Algeria, France or Britain, we feel a sense obligation to each other. It is this feeling of obligation that led American Jews to advocate for their endangered relatives in Poland and Germany in the 1930s; it caused Israel to airlift thousands of Ethiopian Jews in Operation Solomon; it sparked mass movements to free refuseniks in the former Soviet Union. In hard times, we remember the value kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba’zeh, all of Israel is responsible for one another.
We also maintain that feeling of connection in good times. We celebrate our achievements and share the unique ways in which we observe holidays and mark milestones. Crane Lake Camp opens its gates wide to welcome in staff and campers from Israel, Russia, Britain, Australia, Mexico, and more because this is an environment to build on those connections. But the relationships that start here certainly don’t end when the summer is over. Campers exchange contact information, counselors take overseas flights, and all kids are invited after their Olim summer to visit Israel. The relationships formed at CLC are one link in a chain that dates back thousands of years. We are a stronger family, community and people because of these connections.
Chelsea Feuchs is a rising second year rabbinical student at HUC-JIR in New York City. She is thrilled to spend her seventh summer at Crane Lake Camp, her childhood home away from home. When she isn’t davening, Chelsea can likely be found kickboxing.