Blog  Whats it’s like to be a Rabbi at Camp

Whats it’s like to be a Rabbi at Camp

by Rabbi Jeff “Rabs” Clopper, faculty

“I am in my happy place!”   For a couple weeks each summer, emails sent to me receive that message in an automatic reply.  I want those who communicate with me to know that I am not ignoring them.  However, being in the camp bubble requires my full attention…and I am more than happy that it does.

As a rabbi, I am so lucky to spend 11 months as part of an incredibly dynamic congregation.  Even with the challenges that can come in synagogue life, I relish what I do and where I do it.  But there always is that part of my heart counting down the days until it’s time to drive through the gates of my summer home, Crane Lake Camp.

There is an unmatched spirit here.  Many have tried to capture it and transport it to another place and time.  Yet, it’s never the same.  There just are some things you cannot duplicate:

  • rolling hills covered in lush trees serving as a constant reminder that there is exceptional beauty in this world
  • assorted buildings, both old and new, with names scrawled from beam to beam, like a scroll of history weaving each new generation with those who came before them
  • many, many activities, be they at the lake, pool, sports field, zoo, the outdoor sanctuary, or the Limud (learning) Tree, where campers share their experiences, insights, triumphs and defeats
  • living each day immersed in the warmth and embrace of Jewish values, not just on paper or in theory, but understanding and living them day after day as part of community that identifies with them and through them

Most of all, there are the people here – the counselors, the leadership team, the nurses and doctors, the lifeguards, the coaches, the office staff, the Limud Team, the faculty, the a/v guys, the kitchen staff, the maintenance staff, and of course the campers.  They are the reason that Crane Lake Camp is so special.

The place, the activities, and the people – these three elements wrapped in a Jewish embrace make Crane Lake Camp such a powerful place to be.

As a rabbi and someone who loves Judaism, I am inspired here.  I watch with awe the genuine joy I see at T’filah (services).  Campers and counselors dance and sing, while words of prayer fill the outdoor sanctuary. It comes from them, a spirit and an energy that is palpable and incredible.  In this place, we can talk about God, Torah, Israel, and reflect on the difficulties and blessings of the world from the safety of our camp bubble.  Here, our kids are encouraged to be comfortable in their own skin and to realize that Judaism is neither a burden nor a hassle, it’s a source of support and wisdom.

In some ways, Crane Lake Camp represents the best of what we hope to create in our synagogues – a living, loving example of the best of Judaism and community.  There is a song we sing in which the lyrics say “I only wish that we could stay and spend the rest of everyday in a place where it’s summertime forever.”  Since it’s not possible (after all, the high holy days are coming!), instead I will cherish every minute I have here.  And then when it’s time to head home, I will start my countdown clock once again, until it is time to return to CLC, my happy place.



Jeff Clopper is a Massachusetts native who now calls Long Island home.  He enjoys serving the community of Temple Beth El in Huntington, New York, as their rabbi. “Rabs” looks forward every year to being part of the faculty at Crane Lake Camp.  He LOVES being at camp, a place that he and his wife Carol (CLC’s Camper Care Coordinator) consider their summer home.