I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. I love Jewish summer camp--any Jewish summer camp--because I think Jewish camping is a key way to immerse young people in Jewish life and practice in joyful, identity-strengthening ways. One such way is prayer. In fact, a parent reported to me this weekend that her child loves praying twice a day at Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI), our Reform camp in Oconomowoc, WI.
How timely this comment was in that I had just spent three days up at OSRUI thinking about this very camp practice, why it’s meaningful, and how to make it more inspiring. Ordinarily, as a member of the segel (faculty) we gather in January only to get our summer planning started, but this time Director Solly Kane and his team thought it would good for my colleagues and I to reflect on tefillah at camp. Helping us were scholars-in-residence, Cantor Rosalie Boxt, the Director of Worship at the Union of Reform Judaism, and Shira Kline, a notable music educator. Wow! What creative wisdom our teachers brought to bear about prayer, and the practice they modeled will not only help us impact prayer at camp but in our congregations as well.
With Cantor Boxt, we discussed why we pray at camp. The answers were varied and apply not only at camp but here at Emanuel and anywhere we might pray. To create a shared experience that shapes trust, meaning, and direction. To connect with God. To build community. To evoke joy. To elicit purpose. To inspire action. To lift our spirit.
With Educator Kline, we experimented with prayer space and musicality. We played with the lighting to create a comforting, soothing ambiance for prayer. We moved the seating around to create a different way of experiencing each other during our tefillah. She introduced a squeeze box, which brought an exhilarating newness of sound, which made our prayer far more interesting.
Immersion at camp not only transforms our young people, it changes me too. It expands me as a Jew and broadens my vision as your spiritual leader. In this spirit, I’d love to engage you in greater conversation, namely about the purpose and practice of prayer at Emanuel. Please let me know if you’d like to join me in such discussion: email@example.com. And, for good measure, the Spiritual Engagement and Ritual Team is also working with me to gauge your attitudes about prayer and your general spiritual needs. Stay tuned as we will send a survey out soon. Please participate.
Make it a day of blessing and be a force for good!