זֶה-הַיּוֹם, עָשָׂה יְהוָה; נָגִילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה בוֹ
תהילים קיח כ"ד
This is the Day that God has made; We will rejoice and be happy on it!
Walking around camp, I find it very easy to get distracted. There is so much going on in every corner of the camp that I have to remind myself to focus on one thing. Without that internal reminder, I miss so many little details of things that happen. Everywhere I turn, I hear laughing, see smiles, and see chanichim (campers) having tons of fun. Here is a small sampling of what I watched over the past few days:
An impromptu, multi-age water splashing match on the lower kikar replete with giggles and laughter (it was finally warm enough for such a fun activity)!
A Garinim carnival with campers enjoying all kinds of fun activities from tumbling to face-painting, from bowling to being mesmerized by Scott “Lefty” Rosen and his Diablo juggling and Rubik’s Cube mastery, all while wearing balloon animal hats created by our own Rabbi Ronnie Garr.
A Bogrim boys sunset ultimate Frisbee game while the banot were up in the Porcupine Mountains on their linat layla (overnight).
An impromptu concert by tzevvet shira on the kikar with a great audience. All the songs were in Hebrew and everyone was singing along. Nobody came up to me to complain that there were no English songs. They just had a great time.
A staff celebrity basketball game created by Adat HaShoafim to raise money for their tzedakah projects. A great time was had by all (and I even had two points and was given a 9.7 by the Israeli judge for the massive tumble I took at the start of the game)!
Campers from every single aidah participating in a scriptwriting and creativity workshop by the Northwoods Ramah Theater Company. They looked at a poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken, created a human tableau and then wrote scenes based on what they saw. They learned a text from Pirke Avot on Community and then kept working. This was serious work and they were having a ton of fun.
Twenty campers from Shoafim making tefillin from scratch with artist Noah Greenberg.
The Kochavim girls playing on the kikar and then going to do their music video peulah!
Sollelim campers painting benches with themes informed by the Amidah. And there was as more paint on the benches than on the campers.
Machon boys went on a bishul erev (a cookout) and the girls had a special secret society dinner in camp, the Lavender and Cream Dinner.
Like I said, this is just a small taste of what takes place in camp every minute of every day. There is nearly unlimited fun, and even a bit of frivolity, going on in camp all over the place. Campers are engaged in meaningful conversation all the time…and having fun while doing it.
To get to the core of what we are about, building meaningful Jewish lives, we have to open the door and to do that, we need several keys: fun, friends, great role models and excellence. We create an environment where we rejoice, where we enjoy, where we are sometimes carefree, and where we are connected. This is a place where Hebrew is fun, where Jewish living is fun, where Jewish conversations are engaging and enjoyable.
This Shabbat, we celebrate Rosh Hodesh Tammuz. While Tammuz is a reflective and somewhat sad time in Jewish history, leading up to Tisha B’Av, Rosh Hodesh is a time of rejoicing. Toward the end of Hallel, we recite a verse from Psalms:
This is the Day that God has made; We will rejoice and be happy on it
That is every day at Camp Ramah in Wisconsin: A day where we rejoice in the Glory of God and the glory offriendships and community, of Torah and fun, of great people and stronger Jewish identities.
Rabbi Loren Sykes