Here we are in the dog days of summer, and chances are, your kids are somewhere within your earshot as you read this. This (mostly) camp-free summer has been a bummer for all of us, especially as summer camp isn’t just about keeping your children occupied — for many, it’s the foundation of their Jewish education and even identity.
For so many kids (and former kids!) camp is the place where they experience Judaism as a living, breathing part of their lives, regardless of how traditional or learned their backgrounds may be. And when campers return home, they will often bring with them certain camp songs, traditions, and practices into the “real world.”
There is a reason that so much attention and investment has been made in the area of Jewish camping: It is effective. Jewish camps instill a sense of pride and knowhow when it comes to Judaism, and it does so in a fun yet meaningful way.
But, fear not, Kvellers. Despite camp not taking place this summer, all is not lost! For some, virtual camp is playing a supporting role — and, even if it’s not, there are several ways you can bring that sense of Jewish fun into your own home. On our recent Camp Kveller webinar on this topic, we were joined by experts Shawna Goodman Sone, founder of summer camps Israel, and Jodi Sperling, camp consultant, and Jewish Camp @ Home project director for Mosaic United and Foundation for Jewish Camp.
If you’d like to watch the webinar, click here here, or read on for the top takeaways:
1. Go outside. Part of what makes camp great is creating an insular society and ignoring whatever else may be happening in the world. While you may not be able to do that all day long, you can certainly find moments — dare I say hours? — to breathe, shmooze, have purposeless conversations. You know, bond. Building relationships is what camp is all about and, in the absence of “real” camp, you can make your familiar ones even stronger. Try and enjoy this time together!
2. Have fun with some Jewish rituals. Kids walk away from camp loving certain prayers, like rousing versions of the Birkat Hamazon, the grace after meals, or Kabbalat Shabbat songs, sung outside to welcome the Sabbath on Friday night. You can totally do this or a version of this at home. Let loose a bit and clap or sing. Make up your own family set of hand motions for a song. Use your downtime to make your own family Jewy traditions. Yes, camps do this very well, but they do not have a monopoly on it.
3. Keep your cool. Camp is all about being flexible and resilient. Camp is also a place where, if you cannot get everything done on a list, life will go on. Newsflash: the same is true in the real world. Try to allow your home to be a place where productivity transpires — but, ultimately, there is value in being a place where people go with the flow. Reality check: The end of the pandemic is nowhere in sight, so it benefits all of us to become more flexible in our day-do-day lives.
4. Remember: Your kids are watching you. While camps, schools, Hebrew schools, and youth groups do their best to teach Judaism and Jewish values, ultimately, values are learned and transferred through modeling. It is one thing to teach your children that lying is wrong; it is another thing to attempt to pass off your 13-your-old as an 11-year-old in order to save $10 on an entrance fee. Your children observe how you speak and spend your time. If you are able to find time to learn, spend time with family, help others, etc., your children will unequivocally appreciate and absorb those values. So, if you want your kids to embrace Judaism, be sure that they catch you doing Jewish things! Yes, perhaps this is a form of pressure and Jewish guilt, but isn’t that yet another Jewish value and tradition?
Head’s up, Kvellers! We have only one episode of Camp Kveller remaining this summer! This week, we will look ahead at the summer of 2021. JTA reporter Ben Sales, who has been covering Covid’s impact on Jewish camping, will share his insights and foresight. We will also be joined by psychologist Ilana Kustanowitz to help us think about how to frame conversations about next summer with our children, and Tracy Levine, director of One Happy Camper NJ. See you on Thursday at noon Eastern!
Image by bowl_of_nicole/ pixabay / getty images