By Laura Seymour
Camp is approaching, and for me this year, as director of camping services for the Aaron Family JCC, it means American Camp Association reaccreditation. The J’s Ken and Sherry Goldberg Family Early Childhood Center went through National Association for the Education of Young Children reaccreditation this year and passed with flying colors.
So what makes this Jewish? ACA and NAEYC have their own 613 commandments, and we have chosen to take them on. As we work through the criteria, a fleeting thought occurs: Is this one really important? And, sometimes, we see all the work, effort, thinking, striving and believing, and question if it is worth it. That fleeting thought passes because we believe the criteria, even the ones we “don’t get,” make us better and help us provide a better experience for our children and, ultimately, for our staff and ourselves.
This is the way it is with the mitzvot — how many must we really keep? The categories are many: positive, negative, between man and God, between man and man, obvious ones, not so obvious.
However you group them, the questions remain — how many do I need to do and what happens if I don’t do them? Leviticus is the book with the most mitzvot and the words “you shall be holy” are repeated often. The keeping of mitzvot should make us holy (yes, we must ask what does it mean to be holy?)
So many questions. My students constantly ask for “the answer” as if there is only one answer or one right way in Judaism and in life. The answers are personal, yet tied to tradition. A simple example: If every time I put something in my mouth I check to see if it is kosher, hopefully I am thinking what God wants me to do with my life, and then eating suddenly becomes more than that simple act — it becomes a way of life.
At the JCC camp and preschool, we will continue meeting every criteria that NAEYC and ACA give us the best we can, and we will strive to also follow the Torah commandments that, in the end, are all there to make us better people.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and director of Jewish life and learning at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.