By: Rabbi David Komerofsky, Executive Director University of Texas Hillel & visiting faculty member
While hundreds of GFC’ers and their families prepare for the summer with trips to the clothing stores and pharmacies, others spend the months leading up to camp designing a program that will engage their bodies and minds with what it means to be active, young Jewish people. It’s remarkable that the staff is not exhausted before the campers arrive.
This is my thirteenth summer as a GFC faculty member, and some of my own preparations parallel those of my kids. I dig through the summer clothes that have been in the garage since last year, check the expiration dates on my sunscreen and scrounge up a few hats. But I get to do something else as I get ready for camp. I collaborate with friends and colleagues to create an engaging Jewish curriculum for people who sometimes would rather be swimming or horseback riding.
And that is the magic of Jewish summer camp – we’re able to excite kids about their Jewish selves at a time in their lives when more often that identity is defined by others – parents, teachers, rabbis, etc.. Camp is fun, camp is energizing and the camp experience is defined by each camper. The Jewish pieces of our camp lives are completely integrated into everything else that we are, mirroring what will ultimately redeem our people… each person a unique and seamless being that is both Jewish and American, or Jewish and Israeli, and inseparable from the whole. Imagine an organic community made up of organic beings, each comfortable with itself and with each other, and that’s what campers create each summer. There’snothing like it anywhere else.
This session I will be teaching incoming 9th graders about Jewish identity with clips from “Seinfeld,” “The Frisco Kid,” “Keeping the Faith” and a few others. We’ll use film and tv as texts to examine critically.
Personally, I am refreshed by my preparation and delivery of Jewish content because camp challenges me to create something for populations I usually do not serve. Most of my rabbinate is with university students, so it is delightful to carve out these days in Bruceville to make meaning with those I won’t see on campus for a few more years. It stretches me and I leave camp a better rabbi and educator than when I arrived.