Like many things in life, Passover requires preparation. No matter how we observe, this holiday celebration takes time, thought, and effort. From cleaning, shopping, cooking, inviting, table-setting, – perhaps even packing and traveling – careful planning in advance makes gathering for the Seder or ending the week with the Mimouna truly worth all of the effort. Many of my family’s traditions have been passed from my Bubbie to my Mama and now to my siblings and me. We continue to recall and honor the hard work of generations past.
Similarly, Jewish camp also requires much preparation. Camp professionals spend ten months each year busily evaluating satisfaction results, consulting with colleagues, visioning, recruiting, training, planning, revising, and detailing all aspects (and contingencies) for the coming summer. I am privileged to observe their work and am continuously awed by their dedication and commitment. Their intentional efforts month after month, year after year, create the “magical” experiences at camp which engage and inspire today’s – and tomorrow’s – generations of Jewish youth.
In preparation for this summer, camp directors traveled to Israel for the first time in three years to participate in the Jewish Agency for Israel’s (JAFI) training of Israeli shlichim (emmisaries) at Kibbutz Shefayim. A record number of JAFI shlichim will soon travel to North America this summer as ambassadors, educators, and friends, working in 300+ Jewish day and overnight camps. They will bring fresh knowledge, curiosity, creativity, and ruach (spirit) to connect with the minds, hearts, and souls of close to 180,000 chanichim (campers) and madrichim (counselors) for the summer season ahead.
Camp professionals have demonstrated incredible resilience and fortitude leading their communities through these disruptive and challenging times. Unfortunately, despite careful preparations, we have all learned time and again these past two years – and even more recently – that things can change in an instant, washing away our plans, hopes, and dreams. We’ve watched the people of Ukraine painfully abandon their homes in order to flee for their safety, to an uncertain future. And, during the past few weeks, we have all been unnerved and troubled as our brothers and sisters in Israel have come under renewed terror attacks. We pray for their safety, security, resilience, and strength to weather these current storms.
I remain grateful for the compass that Jewish camp provides, helping us all navigate through these unsettling and troubling times. May we continue our holiday preparations, keeping in mind those who are not able to prepare themselves. And, may the thoughts of our shlichim smiling, singing, and dancing at Jewish camps this summer, give us an anchor of hope and stability.