In my personal life outside of camp, it’s often challenging to make observing Shabbat a part of my weekly schedule. Although I am involved in numerous Jewish communities, it’s a secular world I live in, and I frequently have to decide between going to synagogue and going to a concert, or a restaurant with friends, on a Friday night. This is also the case for many of our campers, who have birthday parties, sports games, school programs, and other events embedded into their Shabbat plans.
One of the many things I deeply appreciate about camp is that observing Shabbat in our own way is a core part of what we do here. It’s a value of ours that is not compromised, but rather put on a pedestal. At camp there are no questions about whether or not we will have Friday night services, or festive Shabbat dinners, or Saturday morning “spiritual experiences.” There’s no doubt that here, at 6:15 on a Friday evening, the whole camp will gather, wearing their Shabbos best, to light candles—separating the day from the rest of the week. Taking this day of rest to reflect, show gratitude, celebrate community, and express our Jewish identities is vital to the Camp Inc. experience.
Tonight, as we join one another in entering into the last Shabbat of the session (and camp season), I will urge everyone to think of one aspect of Shabbat at camp that they want to carry with them outside of this space. For some that means merely remembering Shabbat and reminiscing on our time here together. For others it might mean singing songs learned at camp and saying birkat hamazon after meals. Whatever the takeaway may be, I hope that these spiritual and joyous Shabbatot we’ve spent together will make lasting impacts on each person in our community.
With a heavy heart, I think about where I will be a week from today. As I bring in next Shabbat touching down at LaGuardia Airport, it will be the memories of Friday nights at Camp Inc. that bring me comfort and make me feel truly at home.