Melissas’ Message | Shabbat Balak | July 4, 2014
As we prepare for our second Shabbat of the summer, I am struck by the spectrum of experiences we shared this week as a community. Sunday evening, we enjoyed our Beit Midrash “House of Study” program, learning from a variety of inspiring Jewish educators, about all aspects of Israel. The evening was a celebration of learning and culture, and as we ended our evening with Israeli dance, we shared a special prayer for three Israeli teens who has been kidnapped, as we had been doing since the beginning of camp. Less than twenty-four hours later, we gathered as a camp community in the same space to share the news that these teens had been killed, and their bodies found. As a community, we marked this moment with three minutes of silence, one for each of the victims, as well as prayers of healing for the families, peace for Israel, and hope for our future. Mark Pelavin, senior advisor to URJ President Rick Jacobs, was with us at camp that day, and recounted his experience in his recent edition of Inside Leadership.
Other highlights of the week included an evening program with Rabbi Joel Mosbacher focusing on gun violence prevention, and Hagshama sessions focusing on role models, conflict resolution, and positive competition. Tuesday evening we kicked off Maccabiah, our camp-wide color war event where for 24 hours, teens work in teams in areas focusing on sports, arts, smarts, and teamwork. This year, in addition to this friendly competition, our teens were challenged to engage in a philanthropy effort to support Team Ethan, where monies raised are used to help defray the costs of medical care for Ethan Kadish, who was struck by lightning at Goldman Union camp Institute in Zionsville, IN, last summer. Teens were asked to help raise funds over a 24-hour period by only using social media to spread the word, teaching a valuable lesson about harnessing spheres of influence to help ‘do good’. Throughout the effort, we used the hashtag #Kutz4Ethan to track how far and wide our message was shared. Through their effort, $5454 was raised to support Team Ethan. And now our teens are in the process of hand writing thank you notes to the close to 200 donors who helped our efforts. And although much of this week has been rainy, our spirits have not been dampened by the remarkable community and camaraderie felt throughout this remarkable place.
Our week was enhanced by outstanding faculty, all of whom donate their time to enhance our program and the community. We are so grateful that the following Jewish leaders were able to be with us throughout the first week of camp:
- Joanie Berger, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, Shaker Heights, OH
- Rabbi Danny Burkeman, The Community Synagogue, Port Washington, NY
- Rabbi Joshua Cohen, The Nachshon Project, Modiin, ISRAEL
- Elena Dufner, Union for Reform Judaism Campaign for Youth Engagement, New York, NY
- BarrettHarr, NFTY-Michigan regional Director of Youth Engagement, Farmington Hills, MI
- Mr. Jeffrey Kagan, Temple Ner Tamid Westfield, NJ
- Aliza Kline, Brooklyn, NY
- Rabbi Josh Leighton Jewish Congregation of Kinnelon, Pompton Lakes, NJ
- Rabbi Joel Mosbacher, Beth Haverim Shir Shalom, Mahwah, NJ
- Dan Nichols, Artist in Residence, Raleigh, NC
- Rabbi Robert Nosanchuk, Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, Beachwood, OH
- Andrew Paull, Jewish Teen Funders Network, New York, NY
- Mark Pelavin, Union for Reform Judaism, New York, NY
- Rabbi Norm Roman, Temple Kol Ami, West Bloomfield, MI
- Rabbi Sarah Smiley, Temple Emanu-El, Westfield, NJ
- Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, Union for Reform Judaism, New York, NY
- David Stollman, CampuSpeak, Parkland, FL
- Rabbi Scott Weiner, Temple Israel of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY
- Rabbi Melissa Zalkin Stollman, HUC-JIR, Parkland, FL
- Rabbi Brian Zimmerman, Union for Reform Judaism, Dallas, TX
- Micol Zimmerman Burkeman, Director of NFTY, Port Washington, NY
Among other components of camp, our faculty teach in Minor block C, from 2-3 PM each day. These minors last for one week. Topics this week included Emotionally Intelligent Leadership, Making Memories, Reenacting the Most Famous Trials of Jewish History, Exploring Torah Through Pop Culture, and Pop Culture Through Torah, Jews Fighting Back, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Jewish Teens, OMG! There’s A Ghost in My Temple!, Theatre, Acting, & Improv, Marshmallows, pretzelsticks, spice drops and other Leadership Tools, Protecting God’s Address, Choice Through Knowledge, Teen Tefilah, Self Portraits, and Tower. And camp continues to offer a variety of learning and leading opportunities through Chugim (choices), which change every day, and of course through music – we sing a lot here!
It’s been a week of extremes, and I am inspired by the teens and staff who continue to grow in this place. As we prepare for this Shabbat, may each of us feel blessed for our families, both near and far. We are each so blessed that our paths have crossed. From our summer home at 46 Bowen Road to yours, we’re wishing you Shabbat shalom!