By Rabbi David Locketz, Associate Rabbi at Bet Shalom Congregation in Minnetonka, MN, and Avodah Segel
There is no such thing as a typical day at camp, because in some way, every day is unique. The day before Shabbat…the Day after Shabbat…Shabbat…High Sock Day…Yom Tzavah…every day is special at Jewish Summer Camp.
Last night the chanichim (campers) at OSRUI had a special treat. The entire camp community came together on the bitan (pavilion) to experience the music of Rabbi Noam Katz. Rabbi Katz is one of the inspired Jewish musicians who are trending among the song lists of camps and synagogues all over the Jewish World. He is of the current generation of musicians who was influenced by the great work of Debbie Friedman whose music still helps us dance Judaism’s dance to this day.
And that is what we experienced last night. We saw the chanichim dance to Judaism…our traditions were present in their hand motions and chants and rhythmic moves and repetitions. And talk about a modern day miracle. As I looked around, I saw the many children that I know and the many that I do not. But like all groups, there is a vast spectrum. In this particular spectrum, there are those who think Judaism is cool and are happy to go along with what we teach them. And of course, there are those who are budding skeptics for which it is not such an easy sell.
And perhaps those young skeptics allowed themselves to be convinced to come to camp because in addition all the “Jewish stuff” in the video presentation, they saw the Alpine Tower, horses, waterskiing and basketball too.
But last night, I saw them dancing. Music is a key ingredient in what makes camp so amazing. With music we learn to be silly and to have fun. With music we learn some Hebrew words and Jewish customs and teachings. With music we pray. And with music we dance the dance of Judaism.
And when it clicks for our kids it really clicks. And they will bring it home with them and in turn perhaps they will share it with their other Jewish friends…if not the dance and the music…at least the memories of it and the enthusiasm and warmth for Judaism that it carries in its melodies and music.
As Rabbi Katz this morning told the Avodah high school students with which I am working, “We have become too disembodied from the words on the page.” To make them come alive, we need to sing and dance.
And so we will. Tonight as the rest of the country is heading out for fireworks, we’ll be gathering again for singing. Shabbat Singing. Through us the dance of Judaism continues.
But don’t worry, we’ll get fireworks too. The village of Oconomowoc is keeping Shabbat this year. We’ll be treated to the municipal fireworks tomorrow night.
To learn more about Rabbi Noam Katz and his music, take a look at www.noamkatz.com.
Shabbat Shalom AND Happy Independence Day”