By: Rabbi Samantha O. Kahn is the Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Emanu El in Houston & faculty member
About 30 feet above the ground, gathered together on a ledge between the rock wall we just climbed and the wires and ropes we were about to maneuver, a prayer was said and a rabbi’s heart turned Greene.
I just returned from a fantastic evening program with Kibbutz on the newly opened ‘Diamond Course,’ one of GFC’s many impressive ropes courses. The first faculty member in line, I found myself with the last few campers to go. Having waited until the very end of the evening, these campers ranged from very to extremely nervous about the course before them. I reached the top of the podium and as we all waited together and spoke of our fears, they turned to me for reassurance. I offered a prayer for us all to find courage, swiftness and to return to the ground beneath us with safety and joy. With a sincere gratitude that is hard to describe, they appreciatively said ‘amen’ and began their turns on the course. Each one succeeded and also offered encouragement to the ones before them and suggestions and guidance to the ones after them. These impressive teens even refrained from teasing the silly rabbi and instead offered encouraging words that kept me moving forward too. Together we triumphed over the ropes course while building community with one another and including God.
I have had many wonderful experiences the past few days here at camp. I’ve loved leading T’filah, teaching Jewish and life values during education hours and shmoozing with campers and staff about their lives. Yet nothing has encompassed the unique impressiveness that is Greene Family Camp as much as my experience on the ropes course this evening.
The fact that these teens took chances, tested their fears and succeeded in overcoming them would be impressive anywhere. But because we were at Greene, they were also joined by a rabbi, asked for a prayer and took very seriously the job of encouraging and helping other members of their community.
As I looked at their faces I suddenly got it – this is not simply a camp, it is Jewish life at its finest.
Though this week was my first official URJ camp experience, I am certain it will not be my last. It has been an honor to be here at Greene Family Camp and to work with the other faculty, fantastic staff and impressive campers. In this place, there is a wondrous mingling of community, culture, Jewish values and tradition that create a place unique to all others in the world.
When community and prayer are present even at the top of a ropes course, you know you must be at Greene!