Jewish Learning at Camp

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Chag Sameach! Tonight begins the holiday of Shavuot, which celebrates the Jewish people receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.  In honor of the moment of receiving Torah, we want to share about Jewish Education at OSRUI. Every year, more than 50 Rabbis, Cantors, and Educators who spend time with us at camp in the summer.  They work closely with the Rashei Eidot (unit heads) to create fun Jewish experiences that are educational and engaging. Today we are joined by Vanessa Ehrlich, a longtime OSRUI Segel member, who reflects on her time as an Educator at OSRUI.

Copies of the weekly Torah parasha? Check.

Printer and ink? Check.

Portable speaker? Check.

Hebrew-English dictionary? Check.

Stories for lights out? Check.

Costumes? Check.

Wigs? Check.

Fake Glasses? Check.

This is just part of my check list as I head to OSRUI for the summer to be on segel, faculty, for #OSRUI22.  I am sure you might have guessed that I need copies of Torah portions or a Hebrew English dictionary, but I am also always delighted to bring just some of my store of costumes, wigs and costume jewelry to camp to use during our Limudim.

Limudim happens all day and all week at OSRUI.  In our younger units we have an hour of Limud in the morning, and that can take the form of a carnival of stations to learn about different historical Jewish figures, or putting together a giant jenga puzzle that highlights all of our Jewish values.  We want our chanichim, campers, to understand how the Middot, Jewish values they learn at camp can help them in decisions they make throughout their lives.

We also learn, live and love speaking Hebrew throughout the day.  Our chanichim come home with between 100-500 new words of Hebrew.  This does not include our seven week Hebrew speaking program, Chalutzim.  Chanichim in Chalutzim learn over a thousand words of Hebrew, enough to make short sentences and communicate with their Segel, faculty, and madrichim, counselors.  Often our chanichim use a word without even realizing that it is Hebrew.  Our pavilion where we greet people on the first day of camp and host all camp programs is called by the Hebrew name, Bitan.  If you ask your child where the pavilion is, they will not know what you are talking about.  But if you ask where the Bitan is, they will show you right away how to get there.

Sprinkled in with our Limud we also study and live out loud our Middot.  There are so many middot that we choose to highlight these six:

  1. Tsumet Lev: Really listening
  2. Kavod: Respect
  3. Ometz: Perseverance
  4. Derech Eretz: Doing the right thing
  5. Chesed: Kindness
  6. Hoda’ot: Gratitude
We try to highlight one middah a week, and know that if chanichim have a deeper understanding of Tsumet Lev, really listening, they will have a more successful and fun summer.

Now, I have been keeping track and if you read this blog carefully and know NO Hebrew, you already learned 13 Hebrew words.  I was going to add a few more, but I think 13 is a great Jewish number, and good place to stop.  When your child comes home from camp, save this blog and ask them which middot they learned.  Which is their favorite? What Limud surprised them the most?  Did they ever see anyone dressed in a costume?  I can’t wait to hear the answers you will get.

Vanessa M. Ehrlich, RJE, is the Director of Lifelong Learning at Makom Solel Lakeside. She has been a Segel member at OSRUI since 1989. Her favorite place at camp is the Beit T’filah in whichever Eidah she is working and her favorite camp meal is the Shabbat B’Mizvah Lunch. We are excited to have Vanessa on Segel in Tzofim this summer!