From the Camp Clipboard: Collecting Stories Through Camp

Rabbi Justin Held, Director of Jewish Programming


Shabbat Shalom!

I am SO excited for our Tasters, and all first year campers to experience their first Herzl Camp Shabbat! In just a few hours we will all dress in white, and stand outside our cabins waiting for the Shabbat caravan to arrive. As an entire camp community, we will walk and sing as we approach the flag circle. We will then pause to take photos together (which will last a lifetime, trust me) before hearing flag songs written and sung by different k’vuzot (age groups). The flag songs usually tell the story of their week – the funny and the sad, the good and the bad with lots of inside jokes that will also last a lifetime! Then we will lower the American, Israeli and Herzl Camp flag, bless all of our children, and then head to our beautiful Mercaz for services. After services, I will share a Shabbat story with our campers before we all head to Shabbat dinner in our Pavi Bahootz (outdoor eating pavilion). Every Shabbat we share our traditional meal of matzoh ball soup, chicken, potatoes and banana bread. After dinner, there is song session under the stars…I hope Rosh Shira Ethan plays a Disney song! So many memories are made on that first camp Shabbat!

This week, we will start the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy). Devarim is the fifth and final book of the Torah. It is Moses’ retelling of the events of his life. Devarim is a book of stories, and this Shabbat at Herzl is all about stories. On Saturday, we will gather for Shabbat Sichot (conversations) and tell and hear stories. Campers chose their sichot. This week’s options are Jewish fairy tales, Hasidic stories, stories about mitzvot, or stories about Israel.

When our campers come home, they’ll get off the bus full of stories. They’ll share stories that they remember once, and stories that will last a lifetime (along with those embarrassing Shabbat pictures!). Stories bring others in. Stories allow experiences to be shared. Stories connect us to others, either family members or friends, or generations that came before or will come after. When they get home, ask them to share one of their flag songs and ask them about the stories behind the song. Or ask them what they remember most about caravan. For me, it is the peace that grows as we walk and sing together.

I am so eager to hear the stories our campers will tell a week, a year, and a generation from their summer at Herzl Camp in 2021.

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