Rabbis Ed Gelb’s Interview in CJP Educator’s Newsletter
Recently, Rabbi Ed Gelb was interviewed for the CJP's Commission on Jewish Learning and Engagement's newsletter. The interview is below:
Q&A with Rabbi Ed Gelb, Director of
Vision: I want the camp experience to inspire kids
throughout the year, and link them more closely to other aspects of Jewish
life: to their synagogues, community centers, and in their homes.
COJLE: What do Jewish overnight camps excel at?
Ed: We’re really good at:
1. Building community
2. Creating immersive experiences
3. Training leaders
4. Providing experiential education
And we take great care
of kids, so parents can have peace of mind!
COJLE: Sounds great. So what are some of the
Ed: For many of our campers, there’s a real
disconnect between their summer Jewish experience and the rest of the year.
When our alumni tell me
they’ve never felt as good about being Jewish as they did at camp, my first
reaction is, “That’s cool.” But then I recognize that’s not the point. Camp
shouldn’t be an isolated Jewish experience.
COJLE: How do you envision fixing this disconnect?
Ed: We want campers to bring camp home with them!
We partner with other Jewish institutions – synagogues, schools, community
centers – to help bring community-building and immersive experiences into their
When kids’ experiences
are more aligned and more meaningful, then we’ll be looking at more integrated
Jewish learning – and a brighter future built on a stronger community.
COJLE: Can you share a recent “Aha! moment” that illustrates
Ed: This year, each of our groups participated in a
“signature program” designed to take living Judaism home with them. For our 9-
and 10-year-olds it was havdalah. Now when you do havdalah at
camp, you’re with 700 of your closest friends – with music by a lake, it’s just
an amazing experience.
So we had these kids
build havdalah kits. Now they’ve sent photos of their families doing havdalah
together. I’ll never forget when my big sisters came home from Ramah in 1976
and told my parents we should start doing havdalah at our house. And
you know what? We did.