Educationally Speaking – March 2017

I Love Spending Time at Camp with Our Students

Debi M. Rowe, MAJE, RJE, Director of Education and Programs

The child of a certain rabbi used to wander in the woods. One day, the rabbi took his son aside and said, “You know,

I have noticed that each day you walk into the woods. Why do you go there?”

The boy said to his father, “I go there to find God.”

“That is a very good thing,” the father replied. “I am glad you are searching for God. But, my child, don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?”

“Yes,” the boy answered, “ but I’m not.”

Thus began the Shabbat morning “Nature Service” at Camp JCA Shalom the first weekend in February. Students in our 8th through 10th grades joined age mates from Temple Menorah and Valley Outreach Synagogue for a stimulating weekend in the hills high above Leo Carrillo Beach in Malibu.

The teens wandered in small groups along the paths through the hills, stopping every time they saw a laminated page affixed to a shrub or tree branch. Each page guided them through a section of our liturgy, or prompted them to think about a story, or consider the world of nature that surrounded them. What a unique encounter with nature, familiar prayers, or even themselves!

Campers made pizzas for dinner, embellishing their dough with sauce, vegetables and cheese. They tried their skills on the ropes course, or cheered their fellow campers as they scaled new heights (literally!) Spending time outdoors in such a verdant setting– especially after the recent rains–emboldened our students to explore the growth on a tree trunk overrun with amazing yellow fungi. They inclined their heads, almost unconsciously, every time the music of rushing water in the stream could be heard above the din of their peers.

Have you ever chiseled tree-sized “Lincoln logs” to help form the walls of a small cabin? Or worked with teammates standing on ten- foot-long “skis” to move across the lawn together? Have you carefully considered your relationship with school, family, community, Judaism and God? What’s even better, is to discuss such things with others who share your responses to each challenging prompt. A late evening havdalah walk helped bid farewell to Shabbat, and a spirited Maccabiyah team competition rounded out Sunday morning.