By Rebecca Wolchok, NFTY/Kutz Program Associate
Shabbat is not a singular word. Every Jewish individual defines this twenty-four hour period in a different way, in both action and words. From Shomer Shabbos to driving to Saturday morning services, Shabbat is, in essence, a spectrum of ideas and observances. What can universally be agreed upon, however, is that Shabbat is a time of joy. Every Friday at sundown we are commanded to celebrate life and surround ourselves with the friends and family we care about the most. The Shabbat experience at camp truly exemplifies what this holiday is all about.
It’s nearly impossible to verbally paint a picture of the Kutz camp that would fully capture its physical and spiritual beauty. All of its aesthetic is amplified on Shabbat, when the entire camp community comes together in radiant harmony. We warmly welcome Shabbos in jubilant song, amidst the splendor of 100 year old willows that line the edge of the lake. This reception is followed by an animated procession to the Teyatron (a massive, open structure that sits atop Lake Rolyn). It is here that the magic of Friday night services commences.
It is an incredible sight, watching two hundred teens and close to one hundred staff and faculty members engrossed in prayer. What is most awe-inspiring to me is the diversity in prayer. With one glance around the room, it is clear that there are a plethora of traditions at play. The service consists of a varying mixture of song, spoken prayer, and reflective activity. Everyone is brought together by the beauty of nature, the solace of friendship, and the magic of Jewish camping.
Our Shabbat prayers are followed by what can only be described as festive chaos. Naturally, we gather in the Chadar Ochel to enjoy a special dinner (that inevitably ends with a much-anticipated pie for dessert). But the endless chatter and excitement stems from our most coveted tradition; Shabbat Shira and Israeli Dance. Staff and participants alike change from their Shabbat finest to an extremely bizarre assortment of 80’s garb and dance costumes. A 300-person motley crew packs into the Teyatron to once again welcome the Sabbath bride, but this time in a very different way. Song after song , the massive outdoor structure reverberates with a loud combination of singing and screaming. Not to mention, the jumping quite literally puts the place in motion. The excitement in the room is electric. Finally, when everyone’s voices are too hoarse to continue, we cool down with a session of Israeli dance.
Shabbat should always be a joyous, liberating time. No matter how you choose to observe the day, these sentiments should be pervasive in celebration. The traditions that we have at camp help to instill a sense of importance and sanctity to the day that will follow us throughout our Jewish journey. When I think of Shabbat, I think of smiles, laughs, and euphoria. While I am not at Kutz every Friday night, I bring this vision of Shabbat with me wherever I may be.