Introducing our Educational Theme: Shema

Each kayitz (summer), we choose a different educational theme to help guide our programming at camp.  We weave this theme through our tefillot, our edah (division) programming run by our madrichot/im (counselors), and the limud (educational) programming run by our wonderful educators and visiting rabbis and clergy.

For kayitz 2024, we’ve chosen Shema — שמע — as our theme.

We’ll be exploring Shema — and the concept of listening and hearing — as a critical value for our community.  When communicating with one another, how do we listen to those around us?  How do we communicate across lines of difference?  How can we make sure we’re really hearing what others are saying, and not just focusing on our own thoughts and feelings?

During Shavua Hachana (Staff Week), we already started working intensely with our tzevet (staff) to explore how we build the skills to listen to one another and to hear opinions we might disagree with.  Last Friday, all of our counselors participated in a special half-day workshop run by Resetting the Table, a program all about learning how to communicate across differences and handle difficult topics while keeping our connection to one another strong and unbroken.  As the summer progresses, we’ll be exploring these approaches with our chanichim/ot (campers) as well, in an age-appropriate way.

We’ll also of course be exploring the Shema as a tefillah.  The Shema is considered by many to be a central declaration of faith in Judaism.  But what does that mean?  What are we saying?  We’ll be running peulot (programs) for kids digging into the text of the three paragraphs of the shema, where those texts come from, what mitzvot they’re connected to, and what themes and values are woven into them.

Here’s a short teaching from Rabbi Gordon Tucker, who we’re blessed to have with us for a few weeks this kayitz:

A recurring pattern in many of our prayers is this three part sequence: (1) Creation of the World, (2) The Gift of Torah (Revelation), and (3) Future Redemption. The Berakhot surrounding the Shema are not random — they follow exactly this pattern. “Yotzer Or” is about the creation of light (the first thing created). “Ahavah Rabbah” is about God’s loving gift of the Torah. And “Ga’al Yisrael” is about God as the redeemer of Israel. This may help explain the logic behind these berakhot.

As an example of the type of Shema peulah (activity) we’ll be running this summer, last week I ran a short peulah for tzevet (that I suspect many edot might run for their chanichim/ot later this month!) exploring the ideas of love that run through the Shema. The words of the Shema describe our relationship with God through feelings of love: “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might.”  In thinking about the Shema with our chanichim/ot, one possible way in, rather than focusing on our belief in God, is to instead consider what helps US feel loved, loving, and connected to the world around us.  To explore that, we made positive affirmation flip-books.  I gave each staff-member a small blank flip-book, and for each small page I gave them a prompt to write something short, such as “what’s one thing you’re good at?” and “what’s something nice that someone has said about you that made you happy?”  I encouraged everyone to keep their flip-book in their pocket all day, and to try to find one or two moments in the day to look back at it.

We’re looking forward to a meaningful kayitz together, in which we can find moments for spiritual reflection and in which we can strengthen the bonds between all of us in the Ramah kehillah (community), campers and staff together.

Categories: Director, Hinuch, Limud, Tefillot