Friday, August 19, 2016
Sunday, August 7, 2016
None of this has ever appealed to me. I haven't run since 8th grade, and while I work out most days and take that exercise seriously, the idea of running--to say nothing of doing any kind of race--held no appeal whatsoever. I don't do it, I don't think I'm particularly good at it, and so that was that, case closed.
And yet, this summer, I found myself running the "Chapel On The Hill Chase", a 5k race that takes place on Alumni Day at Camp Harlam, where I serve as faculty.
What on earth was I thinking?
This was not the first 5k at Harlam; there have been two others and the first one I manned a water station for the participants; the second I came home to do a wedding. But every year many of my colleagues participated, and this year one of us, Rabbi Ben David, an avid runner, proposed getting faculty shirts and having us go as a team.
Normally that wouldn't convince me. However, I felt compelled. Why? Because I believe in camp. And what I believe is that camp is all about stretching yourself, doing something new and different and maybe even a little bit scary, because at camp you can push that boundary safely while surrounded by a supportive community. And if this is true, then I had to live it as well.
So I registered. I got the shirt. I lined up with several colleagues, alumni, campers and staff, all of whom were way more experienced runners than I was; they had run for years for exercise, had competed since high school, and had run this course, which involved looping camp and going up the hill that leads to the Chapel three times. I was, frankly, terrified. But I felt strongly that if I believe in the ethos of camp and teach it to our students and my own son, that camp is a place to go beyond your limitations, then I would have to lead by example. Besides which, I'd already paid for the shirt.
As we began the race, a colleague lined up next to me and paced the race with me almost till the end, keeping me from falling behind or burning out too soon. The kids coming up from breakfast watched and cheered us on, including my son and the kids in his bunk. We even talked to various other runners along the way, half-jokingly talking about different Jewish values and doing a mini-teach. It was a slog going up that hill, and I definitely felt it in the hours afterwards. But I didn't die, I didn't get hurt, I don't think I made a fool of myself (much), and most importantly, I felt as if I was able to deepen my connection to the community around me and challenge some preconceived notions I had about my own abilities. I'm not saying I'm taking up running tomorrow, but there was a real sense of accomplishment, and a real sense of support.
Camp is all about going beyond your limitations, in the same way that Judaism is all about asking questions. The harder the questions, the more challenging the exploration, the more meaningful the connection and experience. And for that, I'm grateful.
(and for those who care about these things: my time was 35:51, running an average of 11:33/mile. Hey, I didn't drop dead).
Monday, August 1, 2016
While I'm assigned to K'far Noar (entering 9th grade) today I had a chance to teach the Chavurah (entering 10th grade) kids. This was a follow up elective based on a previous program on authenticity and expressing one's Jewish identity; a great subject for that age group and a perfect location--Jewish camp--where we can really explore the topic fully and completely.
For me, the choice on what to teach was obvious; I showed my group two videos that have been around for a while but are worth seeing again. First was Adam Lustig's "What It Means To Be A Jew" (and many thanks to Rabbi Elisa Koppel for showing me this video last year).
After watching the videos and getting some general reaction the conversation turned toward our own experiences: when do we put our Judaism forward, when do we hold it back. When do we push, when do we restrain ourselves. I then asked the kids to write 6-word memoirs (well, really 10-word memoirs) beginning with the words "I'm that Jew who..." The kids got really into it, and used it as an opportunity to describe their expression of Judaism. I was in awe of the words they chose to describe their Jewish identities: words like pride, educator, advocate. They talked about teaching non-Jewish relatives and friends about the traditions, about youth group and 'Jew Camp' and how deep this identity goes. They wanted the links to the videos for when they get home (no tech allowed at camp). Many didn't just write one, but two or three or four.
Is it the deepest exploration of identity? No; we didn't study texts for example. But they had the space--in a Jewish environment, surrounded by their own Jewish community--to talk about their Jewishness as an unmitigated, unqualified source of pride. And I'm good with that.
Friday, July 22, 2016
Friday, July 8, 2016
Saturday, May 7, 2016
And in case you were wondering: if I were reduced to only a handful of words, I would choose nothing more dramatic or inspiring except the words I try to speak to those around me in different ways as much as possible. I would choose I love you. May this be our blessing. Amen.
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You've seen the refugees going nowhere,
you've heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth's scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
Link replaced with text due to brokenness.
Thanks for following my poetic exploration of the Exodus! A happy holiday to all who celebrate.