by Sara Beth Berman, Program Director and Nadiv Educator
URJ Camp Coleman is polishing what’s shiny. Our Mashehu program – the one hour of unit-specific programming per day – has grown in leaps and bounds over the past few years, as we’ve developed each unit’s educational goals, hired unit-specific Programmers, and brought in an exciting grant that provided camp with a year-round program director (I, as usual, would like to thank the Foundation for Jewish Camp, Jim Joseph Foundation and the AVICHAI Foundation for this amazing position!). Many Mashehu programs have Judaic content, and our campers know Mashehu as Jewish programming time. Mashehu is the Hebrew word for “something” and it always is something. An activity, an experience, a time to learn and grow as a unit community.
Last summer, we listened to feedback. Feedback from campers, from their parents, from faculty, from programming staff. What would be useful? What would be better? What would add another layer of awesome to your experience? The feedback indicated that we could do even better in Mashehu. We could help organize texts and content for the programmers to use during the summer. So, we developed a program to do just that. How can we add resources, build programming ideas, and address the intricacies of each unit’s enduring understanding? Who would be on the team? What would the final product look like?
Ultimately, we decided to work on two units per year. The MasheJew program is meant to supplement the Jewish educational content of Mashehu. Thinking about the spiral curriculum we run at camp – each unit’s enduring understandings are built on their previous summer learning experiences at camp – we decided on starting with Bonim and Kesher. Bonim, our youngest, would benefit from the enhanced program, and would also continue in their camp careers expecting this high-level experience. Kesher, Coleman’s second-oldest unit, is nearly the oldest and will be seen as leaders in the educational change. We gathered a group with a varied skill set – from college freshman to well-established congregational rabbis – filling the room with a handful of educators, rabbis, unit heads, and programmers. Many people in the room have over a decade of experience with URJ Camp Coleman.
Over the course of 24 hours, we examined all of camp’s unit-specific educational objectives, leading us to concentrate on Bonim and Kesher – and what our youngest and nearly-oldest campers are poised to learn. Both groups created beautiful ideas and structures. They divided up outlines of programming ideas. They’re tapping resources and typing up programming ideas. Ultimately, the unit programmers will have a variety of sources and program ideas to make programming that works for their kids.
There was much ado about MasheJew this week in Florida. May we continue to move from strength to strength. May we all bask in the glow of the updated luster of our Mashehu programs.