Shalom me'OSRUI! Hello from OSRUI! I am so delighted to bring you greetings in real time from a truly magical place.
I am here serving for two weeks as a segel, as a faculty member for eidat Gesher--the unit called Gesher. Gesher means "bridge," and the chanichim (campers) with whom I am working directly are primarily in middle school or going into high school. I spend most of my time at OSRUI with the eidah, educating them, preparing them for tefillot (prayer), and making positive connections with them. Just tonight I enjoyed leading services with two Gesher campers, Sam Grossman and Elliott Topp, who prepared kavvanot (spiritual reflections) for tefillot.
Our limmudim, our learning, focuses on the theme "Tending the Garden." The active mitzvah under consideration is shmirat adamah, stewardship of the earth. And, our enduring understanding is that we are God's partners in this sacred work. As such, the young people of Gesher consider the ways in which everything in nature is connected; and nothing exists outside this web of connectivity. We also think about the ways in which we are created b'tzelem Elohim, in God's image, and as such possess infinite value that strengthens self-esteem and equips us to make a difference. Each one of us can create a ripple that will impact everything around us. And last but not least, we learn that teva, nature, is not just a field trip; it's an everyday context for responsibility.
I think our chanichim in Gesher have made important progress this week toward two objectives. First, they know that Judaism has focused on environmental ethics long before it became all the rage. And, two, the campers now possess some different ways of expressing these ethics through, among other activities:
Thoughtful discussion and mutual sharing;
Inventory of personal commitments to a sustainable environment;
Consideration of shmirat ha-guf (self-care and shaping a positive body image);
Learning about Israel's commitments to teva;
A tiyyul, a field trip, to a hydroponic farm.
While I dedicate most of my effort to Gesher, I do find time to connect here and there with all the chanichim from Emanuel, making sure to say hello and see how life at OSRUI is going. We have about fifteen campers here currently and will have had nineteen or so throughout the summer. I am also delighted to work alongside two madrikhim (counselors) in Gesher, Dan Dodinval and Ben Yusen. And, we also have Brian Baren and Marissa Bachrach serving as madrikhim in another unit called Kallah. On Shabbat afternoon, Brian and I played on the same staff basketball team--while Brian's mother Ellen, who was up for a visit, watched the game. And at the end of Shabbat, I felt so happy for two of our chanichim, Elliott Topp and Harvey Degenholtz, who participated in a wonderful camp talent show. Pretty amazing for two newcomers to camp!
As I close, I can't help but think of Rabbi Herman and Lotte Schaalman, zikhronam livrakha, whose shared legacy comes to life for me, here at OSRUI, every minute of the day. What an honor it is to do my part to sustain their enduring legacy! And the fact that I get to do so with some of our Emanuelite children brings constant blessing.
With my whole heart, I believe in the power of Jewish summer camping, so I am happy to know that so many of our young people are camping at OSRUI and other excellent places. And, by the way, I am trying to write letters to all the kids attending a camp this summer. Please let Nicole Tuthill (firstname.lastname@example.org) in our office know, if you haven't already. I don't want to leave anyone out.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!