Spotlight One Tzevet Limmud & The Summer Theme of Emet-Truth

Every kayitz (summer) at Machaneh Ramah has a theme; this year, the theme was Emet – Truth. At first glance, it seems like such a simple idea, however, truth – and everything that surrounds it – is a truly complex subject. Truth has never been an easy topic but as our world becomes more complex, the lines surrounding truth have become very blurry. So this summer we decided to talk about this challenging topic. And talk about we did. We talked about it from the perspective of social media, of relationships, in the workplace, at home, in our community, on television, in movies, in the media, in how we live, and in what happens at the end of our lives. Tzevet Limmud (education staff) took these important topics to the classrooms, the Horsha (grove), Cafe Ramah, and benches all over camp. Here is what our Tzvet Limmud and hanichim (campers) shared with us.

Dr. Joshua Kulp, head of the Beit Midrash program, said that “it is difficult to tell others the truth, both about ourselves and about others. Teenagers today live in a world in which they are often forced to present an outward image of themselves that differs greatly from how they perceive themselves. They have difficulty telling the truth about themselves for fear that the truth about who they are might not judged as good enough in the intense ‘out there’ world of social media that they live in. We brought this idea into the Beit Midrash to explore through the sources of the texts that give us a Jewish perspective and help make our own decisions about how we live for our lives. The lives that we live publicly as well as the decisions that we make in private. The hanichim were very interested in these texts; they provoked many rich discussions and helped the campers reflect on their lives.”

Emily Shapiro Katz said, “an educational theme of this summer was ’emet’ or ‘truth.’ Every educator was invited to teach material that they personally connected to this important Jewish concept. I chose to focus on issues relating to death in Jewish law and thought. The initial connection was rooted in two terms that evoke the word ’emet’: (1) ‘Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet’ – the bracha (blessing) said upon hearing about a death: and (2) ‘Chesed shel Emet’ – the truest kindness of caring for the dead. Although a sensitive topic, campers were invited to reflect on their own encounters with death and learn about Judaism’s unique set of rituals and customs for the mourners, the community, and the deceased. Depending on the age group, campers also explored other related issues including Jewish notions of the afterlife, suicide, and organ donation. Despite our focus on mortality, we ended our learning sessions this week with a celebratory ‘l’chaim,’ noting that through the lens of death, we are reminded of the preciousness of our life.”

Aaron said, “I like Limmud because we learn that Judaism connects to every part of our lives, even in the parts you wouldn’t necessarily think of, so it’s a good guide for the right way to live our lives.”


Rachel said, “I really love the creative ways that the tzevet in limmud teach us really important things but at the same time make things so fun!”

Dorit from Tzevet Limmud said, “every year I feel being part of Limmud is like going on a journey and the joy is watching the hanichim along the way.”

Rabbi Andrew Pepperstone said, “this has been my eighth year on Tzevet Limmud, which means that this year’s Nivonim were in Ilanot my first year. Every year teaching has been a wonderful challenge. Each educator on our team finds a personal and compelling way to connect the hanichim to the theme for the summer. These themes are broad enough to give us room to be creative and focused enough to give us grist for the mill. This summer, I took a two-fold approach and taught Limmud at Outdoor Cooking, having found a number of narratives in the Tanach (bible) where truth and lies are paired with food. Each session we explored the truth of that food and the way that the narrative related to the truth: When is lying permissible, even required? When do social white lies go too far? When we are caught between two conflicting alliances, do we directly or indirectly negotiate them and how? How do we sort out truth from bias and exaggeration? I hope that my campers this summer came away with an appreciation to how some of our basic foods are made and the attitude that they can be producers as well as consumers, and with a more nuanced view of truth versus falsehood.”

Akiva Harris, Rosh Limmud of second session, said, “it makes me excited to know that the whole camp comes to Limmud – it’s very powerful and special to know we touch every soul in this community and try to connect it to a love of Judaism and Israel. Knowing that in the future when the hanichim look back on their camp experience one of the things that really will stand out for them is the Jewish education they received at Machaneh Ramah.”


Shara Siegfeld, Rosh Limmud of first session, said, “there’s nothing more exhilarating than having an awesome Limmud session, filled with discussion that engages the hanichim! This kayitz, with the theme of Emet, truth, there was certainly much to discuss. Ranging in topics from the celebrity college acceptance purchasing scandal to when it is permissible to lie to recognizing the beauty of ourselves and body image, the topic of truth can lead in many directions. Our talented, extraordinary educators focused on an array of topics related to truth. And with their passion and enthusiasm, along with knowledge and text with some fun thrown in, Tzevet Limmud made the learning soar!”

Each of our phenomenal educators brought their passion and skill to approach truth through the lens they chose. The conversations were wide-ranging: speaking truth to power in the Jewish tradition, when it is permissible to lie, truth in liturgy, and the truth of ourselves and body image. Our educators’ backgrounds make them who they are – people who value and seek truth. Exposed to such a wide variety of topics, our hanichim explored truth through enriching discussions and activities, with some fun along the way.


Categories: Limud