A few weeks ago I was sitting in the Dining Hall (Cheder Ochel) at the staff table singing and clapping my hands as we all sang during the Song Session that typically follows each lunch and dinner. I looked around and realized with a start that I was oldest person in the room. Even the Camp Doctor was younger than I am. Yet, here I was dressed in the tee-shirt and shorts that everyone wears, singing and laughing with everyone else. I certainly did not feel any older than any of the other staff members, and can guarantee that I was having just as good a time.
Camp Jacobs really is a magic place. No, it is not a Fountain of Youth, and campers and staff don’t go there to forget their respective ages.
For the young people from Temple Emanu-El and synagogues like ours in the South, the time at Camp Jacobs is a time for them to be totally immersed in Judaism; to be in a place where just about everyone else is Jewish, where they are not the only Jew as they frequently are in their classrooms or even in their schools. But it is more than that. It is a place where everyone is accepted for who they are. Oh, I am not so naïve as to think that there is not drama in the bunks and in some of the programs, but for the most part, no matter who you are, where you are from, or who your parents are, you can be accepted and have a wonderful time. I love watching the kids interact, laughing, playing, and just being kids. And what is even more amazing is that during all that fun, they are learning about Judaism and what it means to be a Jew. I am so grateful that the URJ Camps are such a strong priority in the URJ, and so grateful that the children of Temple Emanu-El have an opportunity to attend a camp like Camp Jacobs. And I am really grateful that I can be a part of it too!
Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith is the Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El in Dothan, Alabama.