Modern Midrashim

by Rabbi Jody Cook, URJ Camp Kalsman faculty

I spent the last three summers working at Camp Kalsman, each summer in a different position. This summer, I am thrilled to be back at camp for first session as faculty. The role of faculty (Jewish professionals who spend a period of time at camp) is one that continues to evolve at Camp Kalsman. This year, we have been interacting with the campers and staff during staff led chugim (activities that campers choose) and leading sessions that are called mashehu – something. Each unit has this programming block and it gives the faculty a unique opportunity to teach something that we feel is relevant to the campers and is an important Jewish lesson.

While accompanying a Dubim girls cabin on a campout, I led a mashehu on storytelling. After discussing the roles that stories play in Judaism we did a text study and reflected on the idea that once something happens, the memory of the event disappears if not passed on to others through storytelling.

Dubim campout2
To conclude, the campers wrote midrashim (stories that explain Jewish concepts) about the evening siyum that is a Camp Kalsman tradition. We know that it is customary to say the Shema before bedtime, but none of the campers know why we say a particular version at camp every night. Enjoy the two modern midrashim that the campers wrote as an explanation.


by Dubim campers: Miriam, Neri, Madison, Danica, Pallace, Siena, and Natalie
“Once upon a time, 10,000 years ago, the Israelites were traveling through Egypt. Before going to bed, they looked up at the stars, praying to God for protection over the night. They had been travelling for years with fear, and these prayers gave them a measure of hope. They gathered together and began to pray. Moses then wrote and buried the paper in the ground for protection. As David Berkman laid down the foundation for the first cabin, he found a scroll in the dirt. He unfurled the paper and found two prayers, Hashkiveinu and Shema. David found this inspiring and decided for the campers to sing these prayers every night before going to sleep. This is why we sing these prayers.”


by Dubim campers: Olivia, Frieda, Ava, Ayelet, Audra, Hava, and Danielle
“Once upon a time, David Berkman was a young kid, age 5, and he was homesick and had nightmares at a summer sleep away camp. His counselor took notice to this and started singing lullabies to him at night. Soon, everybody else wanted to see the counselor sing. Soon, other cabins heard the beautiful singing and listened at their windows, arms around each other. The counselors noticed this and created siyum for campers and they did it every year. It has continued today because he still misses his parents and doesn’t want kids to cry themselves to sleep like he did.”

Dubim campout1

Thank you, Cabin Gamla, for these creative and thoughtful midrashim. I loved working with you on the campout!

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