A Shabbat Thought For Camp Post Roe v Wade

Note to Camp Director: I offer you this message which you might adopt/adapt/share with you staff this Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom. Welcome back to camp. I pause at this moment of our coming together in this place we love with the people we love at a time we love to give space to what some of us might be feeling at this moment. 

For so many of us, camp is special because when we come here we get to explore our best selves. Here we try on new elements of who each of us might be or are becoming. Camp is not just a location, time of the year, or even a group of people. Camp is an educational philosophy. Camp is a way of thinking about how we might self actualize and, in the process, help our campers do the same. Camp is a home away from home. Camp is a bubble away from all of that stuff out there. For many of us camp is the Shabbat of our year. 

I pause at this moment to recognize that many of us feel at risk. We find ourselves amidst the storm of COVID, political upheaval in Israel, rising racism and anti-Semitism, gun violence, war in Ukraine, and shifting of who makes laws about our bodies at home. Today, June 24th, the US Supreme Court overruled the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case. To many of us this ruling seems like a trespass of people’s personal and religious rights to have agency over their own bodies. This may feel scary. While this may or might not directly impact you or people you love, this ruling represents a challenge to our sacred Jewish obligation to prioritize the life and health of the pregnant person. What could our camp’s role be in supporting our community members who may feel existentially threatened? What role does our community play in helping people regain personal agency and their capacity to self-actualize?

I find some comfort in the words from the chorus to Yom Shabbaton – The Sabbath Day, a song traditionally sung on Shabbat. Written by Rabbi Yehuda Halevi (1075–1141), this poem describes the complete rest and peace of Shabbat. As we sing:

Yonah matz’ah vo manoach v’sham yanuchu y’giei choach.

The dove does find her rest, and there rest those whose strength is spent.

The dove that rested on the Shabbat day is instantly identifiable as Noah’s dove. Sent from the ark to check if the flood had receded, the tired dove found rest on the dry land (Genesis 8:12). Hidden amidst the chaos of a world that is destructive and painful, Shabbat is a small island poking out from the vast and threatening sea. While the world stands shattered and torn, this small perch for the dove is the first glimmer of hope for all of us. 

But it is hard to have hope, when we are feeling grief and loss. One quote that speaks to this feeling comes from Martin Prechtel’s The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise. He writes:

Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses.

Before we run ahead to meet the demands of the day — and we will —  let’s reflect on this praise for what we may miss. We might miss ideas and ideals of our country’s “more perfect union”. We might be missing the feeling of autonomy and agency. We also might be missing the feeling we have of self-actualization. For many of us this is something that we discovered here at camp. In this moment of grief I want to take a moment to praise, honor, and love our camp community as a home.

In seeing how many people feel unsafe right now, I find hope right here right now with you. In our coming together to make Shabbat at our camp we can find respite from the storm out there. Together we need to make camp for ourselves, each other, and our campers. From that perch, our community will start to rebuild our broken world. In this way, Shabbat will provide us Shalom– peace. Welcome back home. Shabbat Shalom.

Note to Camp Director: Thank you for everything that you do for our community. If we can be helpful  in anyway do not hesitate to be in touch avi@jewishcamp.org Also please share any resources that you might have so we can share it with the field. We are curating content for camps here.

If you or your staff need immediate mental health supports beyond your community’s capacity, for any reason, here are some resources to share:

  • Text “HOME” to 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line
  • Text “START” to 678-678 for The Trevor Project LGBTQ support center
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for free, confidential 24/7 support
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