The bus pulled up to OSRUI on opening day and two first time Emanuel campers climbed down the stairs and walked under the bridge formed by the joined hands of waiting counselors. A longtime camper, a religious school classmate, looked up in surprised delight and walked right over to embrace them.
This summer there will be 37 children of Emanuel represented among the campers and staff of OSRUI. I'm fortunate to be here with 23 of them. I've watched them swim and sing, learn new Hebrew words while playing ball, and compete in archery, basketball and, of course, gaga.
What I've seen more than anything is their kindness and caring for one another and for other campers. In Kallah, our youngest campers have been learning of Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), written about 2000 years ago. One section they've looked at asks, "Who is honored?" and answers "the one who honors others." Over the past week I've seen them cheer one another up and cheer one another on. I've seen them offer to clear one another's dishes (do you think they'll do it at home?) or remind a friend about forgotten belongings. I've seen them throw arms around each other, whisper a shared joke, and finish each other's sentences.
They are deepening connections here -both to Judaism and to one another. It is a delight and a privilege to watch.
I'd like to thank the parents who support their children in this adventure and the Women of Reform Judaism who raise funds to make the journey easier. And, of course, Rabbi Schaalman, whose vision so many years ago has allowed our children to grow in mind, body and spirit for many summers.
While I'm giving thanks, I would be remiss if I didn't thank my colleagues and the lay leaders of the congregation for the time I spend at camp each summer. I first came to OSRUI as a babysitter for one of Emanuel's assistant rabbis. I fell in love with Jewish camping then and am thrilled to be able to come back year after year. Like our campers, I too have the opportunity to strengthen my connections in our Emanuel community; talking with our students by the pool or on the lakefront gives us the possibility to learn about one another in a way not allowed by the more formal school setting.
Additionally, I am renewed each year not only by time spent in this beautiful setting but through spending time with some of the most talented informal educators in the country. Sitting in the lodge kitchen late into the night, we share ideas and learn from one another. This year I'm attached to Tiferet, the fine arts unit and have been astounded by the creativity among the staff. Together, we've created some new approaches to teaching Midrash that I hope to bring back to Emanuel.
I would love to spend time with your child at OSRUI next summer. Go to www.osrui.org to find out more about what camp offers. Or, set up some time to talk with me when I come back from camp in mid-July. Just plan to spend a little while, I could talk about OSRUI for awhile.