By Rachel Wolman
Hava Nashira participant & URJ Camp Newman staff member
Hava Nashira is a unique community where people from ages 18 to 80 come together for one thing: Jewish music. This was my fourth year to participate and I can’t imagine not having this community in my life. The Jewish music community is a place where the support is like no other – the openness and love is flowing, and the people can sing like angels. My experience at Hava Nashira has not only equipped me to be a better and stronger songleader, but it has truly changed my life for the better. The people you meet here are exceptional and the relationships that you make are completely lifelong. This group is truly one of a kind.
I have been a part of the URJ Camps songleader intensive at Hava Nashira for the past three years. Every year the songleading staff of the thirteen URJ camps come early to learn, network and share best practices. We also have the responsibility of leading song sessions after meals, so the time to meet each other and prepare together is important.
This year’s intensive was different as a result of the Kivun program which brings together specialty staff from the URJ and Ramah camps to learn and train together. As a Kivun fellow it was an honor to be able to learn, listen, and sing with this new community. The Ramah songleaders joined our track with an open mind and instruments in hand.
We welcomed them into our community with new and old traditions. The first night that everyone arrived to camp, I was lucky enough to be chosen to be part of a group of five other songleaders who led a welcoming song. Typically it would be our faculty mentors like Dan Nichols, Rabbi Noam Katz or Cantor Rosalie Boxt that would lead the song session. Instead, they invited those of us who have participated in the track for a few years to show the Ramah songleaders the typical styles of URJ songleading. We focused on welcoming the new songleaders into the community, as well as getting everyone excited for the days ahead. This opportunity to songlead with my colleagues was unique, because you typically only songlead with those from your own camp that you work with for the summer.
Later during our time together, four of the Ramah songleaders led our group in shacharit (morning services). It was such an incredible experience to have a more traditional service than what the URJ group is typically used to. I enjoyed that they took a few secular songs and put prayers to the same tune, and it was really nice to be able to look at a morning service in a whole new light. There are so many similarities that the Ramah songleaders have to those of us working at URJ Camps, as well as many differences. To be able to have the chance to learn from one another was such a gift. I could not have been more excited to spend time together with this group!
All photos courtesy of Rachel Wolman.