Rejoining the Community

Camp works. And now we even have evidence to that effect as seen in the recent longitudinal impact study and Avi Chai’s Limud by theLakeRevisited. There is a profound experience of Jewish community at camp by  our campers and our staff alike. Even after not talking for years when I reconnect to people with whom I went to camp the bond still strong. But, how often do I take pause to think about all of the people for whom camp did not work? For many of us, being out of sight is being out of mind. For those who left camp for an embarrasing reason there is a risk that they are lost to our community. There is often a stigma connected to an untimely dismissal from camp that is a barrier to our reconnecting.

It was hard not thinking about these people this week when learning Metzorah, this week’s Torah portion. There we read about those who have been plagued by leprosy and had to leave the camp. There is no question that they needed to leave camp, but it does not mean that they should be lost to the community. There we read,

This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: he shall be brought to the Kohen. And the Kohen shall go forth out of the camp; and the Kohen shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper. (Leviticus 14:2-3)

Is the leper being brought to the Kohen or is the Kohen going to the leper? At the core it defines what it means to have a holy community. Both parties need to make the effort to repair that relationship.

Similarly, in our camps we need to kick people out to preserve the safety and sanctity of the community that we are creating. These people might have made some bad choices or camp just might not have been appropriate for them, but does it mean that they are no longer part of the community? And going back to Metzorah, whose responsibility is it to try to bring them back into the community? Clearly both parties need to make the effort.

Dayenu we filled our beds with campers. Dayenu we filled the hearts and heads of all of our campers. Dayenu we trained our staff to do this. Dayenu we had the time to do alumni development with the alumni who left camp under good terms. And I am not just talking about the fund raisers, but the friend raisers. As we read this week’s Torah portion we should all put it on our schedule to get up and go out of camp to bring those people back into our communities. That would surely be enough. We all can serve in this role of the Kohen. But if we cannot think about supporting the work of a camp to enable them to have staff time to do this outreach. Camp is an amazing time and place for people to join community. In the act of helping someone rejoin the community we all become holy.

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