Life is a funny thing, sometimes. We begin completely helpless and dependent on our ability to observe and learn from those who demonstrate how to act, how to think, how to feel. From a very young age, we learn that pathway to being completely “in charge” and independent is to be older, an adult. So we wait. We wait and we want time to speed up. It’s selfish, but it’s a very true and honest reaction to feeling trapped in our age, victims of our youth. We must employ this past week’s midah, or value, which is savlanut– patience. All things happen in their time, now or later.
When we get old enough to realize that independence is expensive, it is dangerous and it is exhausting, the pathway leading to those places of comfort are not always easily accessible or available. However, there are some of us lucky few who are able to make that journey each year. Since 1980, I have spent a portion of my summer (all but two) at a summer camp as camper, staff, leadership and visiting faculty. Even as an adult Jewish professional and member of the clergy, with the blessing of my congregation I am able to be with URJ Crane Lake Camp for a few weeks to recharge my own batteries, as well as deliberately planting more than a few seeds.
Those seeds come in the form of being very present in the lives of the campers and staff, as they develop and sometimes solidify their feelings about God, Judaism, community and even Jewish clergy. Not every camper has a cantor who is lucky enough to demonstrate on a yearly basis that cantors wear shorts and Crocs, we sing way more than songs from our liturgy and we are just as eager to interact and be a part of their lives as they are to have a real conversation with another positive adult role model other than their family. Those seeds do not always take root right away. Sometimes, as at times in the rest of the year, we say things with the hope that we might make a difference; that we might inspire someone to think and act for more than just themselves. The evidence that what we are doing is making a real impact is sometimes slow to bloom, but I have seen with my own eyes real, marked success. It just takes time and more than a little savlanut.
Since 2007, I have seen Crane Lake campers grow up in their time. I have seen them become counselors, unit heads and even Assistant Directors of their own camp. I have seen that both love and loyalty travel the same road, both directions. I have seen that community is very, very big. It is through the Red Gates of 46 State Line Road and beyond. Sometimes, my most anxious moments are spent waiting all year to return. My own children are products of URJ Northeast Camping, and are eager to return to their places of comfort. I know that my work as a parent and as a role model is more than worth the effort as I am now given the gift of sharing the love for Jewish camping, generationally. For the sake of the many other parents who might not have the same kind of access to what I am able to see with my own eyes, I assure you- with a little savlanut, you will feel the love of this community in your lifetime and onto the next.
Cantor Brad Hyman has been visiting as member of faculty since 2007. While at camp, he wears a lot of Grateful Dead shirts and shares his love for being Jewish with anyone who will listen. He sings goofy songs, even some Jewish ones, and he is lucky enough to be married to Vicki and father to Liora and Hannah.