OSRUI is Thriving

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Shalom from 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 Rabbi Rachel Kaplan Marks as she reflects on how Judaism thrives at OSRUI.

It seems to me that worrying is a Jewish pastime.  Above all, perhaps, Jews worry that Judaism will cease to exist in the future, because this generation of young people just don’t “get it.”

I’m happy to report that, based on my time here at URJ Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute this summer, the older generations are just plain wrong.

Allow me to share just three brief moments that illustrate that this generation of Jews truly do get it.

On Monday morning, after t’filah (services) with Avodah, one of the seventeen year olds exclaimed, “We should really say shehecheyanu (a prayer thanking God for enabling us to reach this very moment) since we’ve some some new people join our group.”  Of course, everyone agreed, and we joyfully shared a moment of blessing.

Last week, I spent a little bit of time with Chalutzim, our seven week Hebrew speaking program.  There I ran into a chanicha (camper) from a congregation I previously served.  As we caught up, I suggested, “Let’s talk in Hebrew.”  This chanicha replied, “My Hebrew isn’t so great.”  We carried on anyway in Hebrew — and this chanicha understood and responded to the Hebrew beautifully.

I also have sat with the whole machaneh (camp) for morning prayers.  This was not just any Thursday morning, this was the Thursday morning of Maccabiah.  During the prayers, I witnessed madrichim (counselors), who are themselves young adults, encouraging the chanichim (campers) to sing along to the prayers with ruach (spirit) and kavanah (intentionality).  These young Jews not only know the words to the ancient prayers, but they exemplify an inspiring spirituality.

As a former chanicha, madricha, and rosh eidah (unit head), myself, I can’t help but think about the generations of kids and adults who have poured their hearts and souls into this unique community.  Before the pandemic, to a certain extent, I believed that camp would be a constant in our regional Reform Jewish Movement, in large part due to a certain sense of inertia.  Now, I think we all realize how fragile it all is.  That fragility, however, doesn’t need to manifest in the form of worry – because not only are the kids alright, but our youth are thriving here at OSRUI.

Rabbi Rachel Kaplan Marks is the Rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in Skokie, Illinois and long time camper and staff member at OSRUI.