I am still glowing from the three days I spent in Atlanta last week with more than 800 day and overnight camp professionals, lay leaders, federation partners, educators, and funders at FJC’s 9th biennial Leaders Assembly. We gathered together in-person – for the first time in nearly five years and at record-setting levels – to celebrate our collective accomplishments, share best practices, and dream about tomorrow.
The energy during the three days was palpable – in every plenary, breakout session, meal, and affinity group meeting, you could feel the positivity of a field reunited, reinvigorated, and recharged. Our theme, “Imagine What’s Possible”, encouraged attendees to dream big about our shared future and how Jewish camp can continue to excel.
The timing of our convening could not have been more appropriate. December marks the furthest point from the start of summer, and in the northern hemisphere, the darkest time of the year. We came together to celebrate the light and radiance of Jewish camp. We aspire to bring more light to our world – much needed given this period in which we live. We inspired each other to overcome the darkness, anxiety, and uncertainty of the pandemic in order to return, not to what was, but to what can be. We gave each other the permission to dream again.
Chanukah – our festival of lights – approaches, I have been giving new focus to the role of the Shamash, the lead candle. The Shamash, meaning “helper” or “guard”, bears responsibility for lighting the other candles, each night adding a new candle – spreading more light, sharing more joy.
In contrast, our tradition actually puts the focus on the other candles – these “ordinary” candles that represent the miraculous story of Chanukah and the cruse of oil which lasted eight days. Yes, the Shamash oversees lighting the other candles – the leader that sparks others – but its very name literally conveys to us how our sages felt that leaders should view themselves – to be the guides that show others the way forward.
Like each of you, the Shamash plays a key role in igniting, inspiring, and sustaining our communities. You help spread more light, shining the way for more campers and staff to experience camp’s unique brand of joyous Judaism. It is these sparks that light the way for a brighter Jewish future – and who will become the next generation of Jewish leaders, clergy, educators, and engaged Jews.
As you consider your year-end giving, please consider the gift of Jewish camp! Click here to Donate today. Thank you for being our Shamash.
Chag Urim Sameach – may you and those you love celebrate a bright and joyful Chanukah!