In an effort to help better guide the camp forward, I have recently begun the Chazon fellowship through the I Center and the Avi Chai Foundation in partnership with the Jewish Agency. The program lasts eighteen months and includes a seminar in Israel this April.
In contemplating how I could help campers and staff be proud of their Jewishness, I have realized that ‘Ahavat Olam’ (love of world/others) as well as ‘Ahavat Yisrael’ (love of the Jewish people and its land) are paramount. Therefore the land of Israel - a modern miracle and our ancestral homeland - should be at the core of our pride. The question is, how can we get Israel into everything at camp?
If camp is truly the most powerful tool in education, which I believe that it is, the Schechter summer experience has the potential to be transcendental. Schechter is a place that transmits Jewish culture and Jewish meaning. For many campers that attend Schechter, it is where their Jewish journey begins. If camp can instill the values of ‘Derech Eretz’ (respect) towards others’ opinions, then a full expression of our diverse culture can be explored. When young Jews begin practicing the values of ‘Tikkun Olam’ (repairing the world) so will their peers; Jews and non-Jews alike.
To be a Jew is to serve. In fact according to the second paragraph of the Aleinu prayer, Judaism is about fixing the world. When Jews live in harmony and walk in the path of Hashem, there will eventually be more tolerance and hopefully peace. We would like to have a camp where everyone feels welcome, heard and respected. The Chazon program and the new Goodman initiative will help us teach a more diverse approach to Jewish life. We will attempt to teach a variety of narratives about Israeli life, culture, politics and history, to try and break free from the rigid and polarized discourse that has come to dominate the landscape of Israel education and advocacy. It is also important to remember that Israel education is not the same as Israel advocacy.
Lastly, on this note, our Assistant Director David Furman will be serving as the Goodman liaison to our seven Goodman Fellows, who will strive to create informal and experiential Israel education programming. With their help, and the help of my Chazon fellows, I look forward to a fun and exciting summer of Israel education and programming!
Executive Director, Camp Solomon Schechter