Camp Transforms Me to We

During Yom Kippur we pray the “Al Chet” confession of sins ten times. We repeat again and again the phrase, “On the sin we have sinned…”.  While there is a lot to be said about the particular sins that we are trying to atone for with this prayer, it is notable that the prayer is not in the first person singular but in the voice of “we”.  While enforcing collective punishment can be unjust, taking collective responsibility is transformative. Before we can talk about repairing our own sins, we have to spend some time repairing our sense of being part of a collective. We might struggle to get into the rhythm and tunes of the High Holidays because we have spent the rest of the year listening to our own playlists. In many ways, we are all still bowling alone.  Judaism might have lost being sticky because society in general has lost its glue.

One of the amazing aspects of Jewish camp is that it is a special place where community really comes together. And this past summer, we saw examples of camps working together on new initiatives to further expand on that idea of community. First, URJ’s Henry S. Jacobs Camp (a Reform camp based in Mississippi) and Camp Darom (an Orthodox camp based in Memphis) came together to celebrate the 4th of July (see story). We also saw a joint Maccabiah games for teens from the leadership programs of the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) and teens from BBYO (see story). An amazing Matisyahu concert at NJY camps (Camp Cedar Lake) gathered campers from URJ Kutz Camp, Habonim Dror Camp Na’aleh, and Camp Tel Yehudah (see story).  Through these camps, an amazing “we” is developing.

When I think about the “Al Chet”,it is easy to get stuck thinking about all the bad things that I did last year. However, when I look back on this summer, I am inspired. It is at camp that the kind of community that teaches us to speak in the first person plural is created. Camp is a place where all of the “me’s” can be transformed into a “we”. Together we can accomplish anything.

May we all have a very meaningful New Year.

– from FJC Blog

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