By: Marsha Katz Rothpan, faculty memeber
Morning nature walks. GFC Sunsets. The stars twinkling brightly. The Texas-sized thunderstorms. The laughter. The smiles. The conversations. The learning. The friendships. The 500+ voices joined as one when we sing and pray.
These are just some of my favorite things about Greene Family Camp and why I return as a camp faculty member in the summer, traveling from West Hills (LA) California to come home. Home – to my camp. This magical place my parents sent my sisters and me in 1981 so that we could experience a Jewish community, meet Jewish kids our ages (there weren’t any in Ada, Oklahoma!), and learn about ourselves and what it means to be Jewish and live a Jewish life. Back to this wonderful place where I met my husband and began my journey as a Jewish communal professional.
In this iPod generation where ‘friend’ has become a verb and change moves at lightening pace, it is refreshing to see that here at camp friends are still made the old fashioned way – by being together, talking with one another, playing together, learning and praying as a community. GFC is a place where meaningful relationships with each other and Judaism take root.
A favorite time of my day is when I am with a group campers for their bunk activity, limmud or shiur (educational programs). Not only do I get to know the campers and counselors during these times designed for creative learning and discussion, but I watch them get to know each other and themselves. These moments are sacred. They learn together how to live Jewishly or apply lessons from a text to their lives, how to work together as a team, or discuss the meaning of a particular prayer or song. Often, conversation trails a little off topic and I hear about the exciting or challenging things that happened during the day from both camper and staff. I see the excitement and curiosity as they listen to the Israeli staff share stories about their lives in Israel, connecting yet another generation to the country and people of Israel. I watch the campers and counselors interact with each other, forming relationships that will inspire them for years to come. All of this happens without technology. Without Facebook. Without texting. It happens through good ol’ fashioned conversation.
As I write this, the campers are busy doing “Shabbat prep” – making our camp pretty and clean for Shabbat. In a few hours, we will all be dressed in white, singing Shabbat Songs as we take the traditional Shabbat stroll through camp together – as a community – to dinner. After dinner, our voices will join in what is sure to be the best song session of the week and then we will walk together to the Beit K’nesset for Shabbat services. As we enter the Beit K’nesset, the sun will be dipping below the hills behind Lake Jake providing us another breathtaking camp sunset. What a perfect way to end a week spent reconnecting with old friends, learning together, and creating new friendships and experiences to take with us on our Jewish journeys.
It is good to be home.