Our years have a rhythm — Jewishly we know that the holidays especially, weekly Shabbat, mark the time and we move from holiday to holiday, season to season knowing what will come next. Children, and even adults, look forward every year to their birthday to mark a special passage of time. It is comforting to know what is coming and to plan for it whether it is a once in a lifetime event or a much more regular happening.
My “job,” my passion, fits into that yearly rhythm and I, like literally thousands of kids through adults, look to summer as a magical time we call CAMP! All over the United States (and beyond), camp directors begin planning for the summer the minute camp ends — it is a year-round process. In mid-March, at the J we were on a roll — and then it stopped. Although the camp world did not stop! The camp world united in planning and although each camp made its own decision to open, to delay, to go virtual, to close, we all worked together to support one another. So we kept rolling and will continue as we have now ended camp at the J and begin planning for next summer.
Today, on eJewishphilanthropy.org was yet another an article about starting schools during this pandemic. There is so much to read, think about, worry over and more with the decisions for our children both personally and more globally. This summer at the J many families chose not to come to camp, and we honored their choice. Those who chose to come to camp, we welcomed. Both choices were difficult and painful and the choices we must all make continue. This particular article by a day school principal in Chicago, Nanci Caplan, shared this greeting by the Maasai and how we might think today:
“And how are the children?” This greeting is used instead of “hello” because if the children are OK, then the community is OK. If the children are not OK, then there is work to be done. During this time of global pandemic, of national uncertainty, of confusion and disagreement about whether or not schools should physically open their doors to their students this fall, the question that we must ask ourselves is: “And how are the children?” Because it is the children that we, as a community, are responsible for and to, and much like the Masai, if our children are OK, then our community is OK, and if our children are not OK, well, then we have work to do.
This idea also comes from a midrash about Moses being asked who will be the guarantors of the Torah? The answer was not the ancestors or the prophets or the sages. But, the children would guarantee that the values would be continued. Through our responses and how we welcome each new day and new challenge is our gift to our children and the future. This summer we saw how our children met the unknown with smiles behind their masks because we said that we are all going to be OK. Each morning staff put on masks, face shields and grabbed thermometers for carpool. We opened the door and said, “Good morning, grab your bag and put on your mask. Let’s go have fun!” Was it all easy? No! There were procedures and protocols and so much more but the magic of camp was there. We trusted the children to show the way.
Thank you for letting me “take the summer off” from writing. It was a busy, crazy, wonderful summer and gave us all hope that we are going to make it — TOGETHER!
Shalom from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is the director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family JCC.