By Vanessa Ehrlich, OSRUI Segel (Faculty)
Every year before my personal children went off to camp, we would have “the talk.” By that I mean, discussing proper hygiene, being kind to their bunk mates, putting sunscreen on every day and, of course, hydration! As they grew older, our conversations grew as well, adding in comments about being kind and also not getting in trouble. I would try to also push being a positive leader and of course constant communication with their mother, or at least writing a letter a few times a week. You probably have your own version of “the talk” depending on age, relationship, and where your children are actually spending their summers. But I want to put the plug out there for adding Middot to your agenda when giving “the talk”
I’ll stop myself and answer question numero uno or mispar echad: what are Middot and isn’t this why we are sending them to camp for YOU to talk about Middot?
These 48 Jewish virtues or values (in Hebrew middot, the plural form of middah) serve as the basis for the study of a variety of Jewish texts. Perfect for students of all ages, middot can be studied individually, with a study partner, and by families. (From Union for Reform Judaism)
This summer Middot will be part of Limudim, our Jewish experiential part of the day. We have many fun, age appropriate, interactive, and informative experiences for your children, our chanichim (campers). There are 4 Middot we will be concentrating on this summer!
If you are new to this type of talk, have no fear, because I have the perfect guide for you. Warning: seeing the most recent Avengers movie will help better understand the following guide, but it is not required watching.
אומץ Ometz – Perseverance: Be like a superhero, anyone, pick one, and keep your eye on the prize. Tell your children to try something new at camp. Camp is a great place to try out a new Chug (a specialty they can choose), but they have to keep at it. Whether it is making friends, or learning how to swim, you can’t do it once and call it quits; perseverance is the name of the game! Be like Spider-man, who had to learn how to use his superpowers very gradually, but kept at it until he… Sorry, sorry, no spoilers in this blog. To put it simply, with great power comes great responsibility [to keep at it, even when it’s tough].
כבוד Kavod – Respect: The beginning of the Avengers movie starts off with the team very broken. They soon realize they must be able to respect one another if they had any chance of saving the world. Talk with your children about what respect might look like at camp. What does it look like to respect your madrichim (counselors), and what does it look like to respect the other people in your cabin? Be like all of the Avengers and teach your children to respect the other chanichim, their madrichim, and segel (faculty). Respect will make camp a more welcoming place for all of us, where we can feel comfortable and good with each other.
שומת לב Somet Lev – Mindful Presence: We know the Avengers had a million pieces of cutting edge technology that helped them fight to save the world from Thanos. But take the Avengers away from that technology and all you’re left with is a pile of gadgets. It’s what’s inside us that gives us value, and Bruce Banner, err, The Hulk is a great example of that. He doesn’t need an iPhone to be able to HULK SMASH anything in his way, and just like the Hulk is perfect without technology, your child will need to be ready to jump into camp with both feet, particularly if they can leave the distractions of everything else behind. This is just one reason why we don’t want any social media or electronic devices at camp. We want to submerge our campers and everyone at camp in everything happening, the rest will be waiting for them when they return.
דרך ארץ Derech Eretz – Community Mindedness: At the very end of Avengers Endgame they all had to work together against a horde, and I mean horde, of horrible machine villains and real villains. If they don’t work together the end would be simple; the bad guys win. With everyone working together, whether they wanted to or not, they pull off an against all odds victory. If your child works with the madrichim, other chanichim and segel they will have their own wins by the end of the summer.
If you have any questions about Middot feel free to contact me or just ask your Rabbi, Cantor or your Educator. If you have questions about Avengers End Game I am not sure who can help but you could ask Director Solly Kane. Bringing Middot to camp will enhance your child’s experience from the moment you drop them off and arm them with the tools they need to thrive during the summer and come home even more powerful superheroes than when they left.
Vanessa M. Ehrlich, RJE, is Director of Lifelong Learning at Makom Solel-Lakeside. Read her blog: https://inoneehrlich.blogspot.com Follow her on Twitter: @VMEhrlich
The photo above is of Vanessa’s family the last year her children got “the talk.”