By: Natalie Shribman, alumna and rabbinical student
As I sit in a enclosed room in a library working away on final papers and exams, I am wishing I was currently sitting on the shores of Maple Lake instead. My time at George was short, too short, but it was meaningful and extremely useful for my current studies as a rabbi. Last summer was my first summer at a Jewish camp and the program and people produced a lasting effect on me. From daily outside services to bedtime Sh’ma to Israeli dancing to even services in the water, I felt privileged and taken aback from what I was teaching and learning.
As Rosh T’fillah, I spent my days walking around camp observing and assisting in the education sessions Hannah Bloomberg was leading and I was constantly thinking about how to differently structure that day’s service. While I did spend a lot of my time planning and writing the different daily services, I found myself thinking more about how to implement the education sessions into my future religious school and day school classrooms. I witnessed sessions about the Birkat HaMazon, appreciating the earth, tikkun olam, and Israeli political issues. While I greatly enjoyed watching and helping Hannah lead these activities, I also found myself thinking about how to incorporate those themes into my services throughout the week.
I think about my time at George pretty regularly, especially when I begin to plan a service or write a lesson plan. A couple months ago, I taught some of the Israeli dance routines to my first grade classroom and this was a real joy and something I never would have been able to do had I not attended George this past summer.
Since returning to rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio this past fall, I have made services part of my daily routine. This spiritual insertion into my day is influenced by the daily services I conducted and participated in at George. In addition, the variety and creativity of the services led me to appreciate services more and want to attend them more regularly. Because I led and participated in services on a daily basis, I became very confident in leading services. This past year I served as the student rabbi at Shar’aei Shalom Congregation in Columbus, Indiana. At Shar’aei Shalom I lead Kabbalat Shabbat once a month and an adult education session on Saturday mornings. While the beginning was daunting, I think it would have been even more challenging had I not been so exposed to daily Jewish life at George.
Working with the esteemed faculty of Camp George allowed me to more easily write sermons and High Holiday services. I remember working with Rabbi Rob Morais for hours on High Holiday services—he was patient with me and gave me great insights and advice. He ridded me of my anxieties regarding leading High Holiday services and gave me confidence just before I began my second year of rabbinical school. In addition, the sheer variety of melodies and rituals that I witnessed and sang along with either the song leaders or the cantors, helped me have more resources to lead my own services. I still use some of the melodies that I learned at Camp George when I lead services.
While leading and participating in services at George helped me immensely this past year at rabbinical school, the friendships and relationships that were created beneath the trees of Camp George were what affect me the most. There have not been many places where I have felt so accepted and loved so immediately other than Camp George. The friendships I created there with the staff, especially with the Hanhallah staff, are remarkable. These people were my daily support system—I could go to them for just about anything. They motivated me, wiped tears off my face from laughter or exhaustion, ran with me, and most of all, inspired me. While I have lost touch with some of these people, I continue to feel inspired by them. And what is most remarkable is that I know, that as I continue my studies to be a rabbi, I will continue to feel influenced not only by these people and relationships, but also by Camp George as a whole.
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