By Laura Wolfson
I got a lump in my throat when I found out that this Shabbat, when I would be finishing out my Faculty week at camp, was going to be Pride Shabbat. Camp staff worked hard to prepare for this special Shabbat, and to prepare our campers with messages of love and inclusion. These are the kinds of messages I have heard spoken aloud: Everybody is welcome to be who they are at Camp George. Everyone is recognized as a special person, a person created “b’tzelem Elohim” – in God’s image. Campers made cards for the Shabbat table with sayings written on them such as “It’s not important who you love, it’s important that you love”, “Love is love!”, and “You are awesome!”
It wasn’t always so. I explained to a group of Lehavot campers how embarrassed and ashamed I felt when, in 1975 during my first summer at a URJ camp, all the other girls had crushes on boys (or so they said) so I pretended to have a crush on a boy too. It made me feel that the real me was somewhat invisible. They thought that was silly for me to have had to do that.
“Why didn’t you just tell them you have a crush on a girl?” they asked me. I answered them “I was afraid my friends wouldn’t like me anymore”. And I told them how happy I was that Camp George is a place where everyone belongs, and everyone can be themselves without having to feel ashamed or pretend to be something they are not, and that this is what Pride Shabbat is all about.
Given this week’s announcement of the Ontario government’s announcement of their plan to cancel the “Growth and Development” Health curriculum and return to the previous curriculum document which makes no mention of sexual or gender diversity, I am reminded of how damaging it can be to a child when s/he feels invisible. Here at Camp George we want all our campers and staff to feel positive self-worth and we actively encourage them to boost each other up.
For the Shabbat morning service, one Lehavot camper wrote the following reflection to read aloud in front of the whole camp: “To me, the word Pride means many different things, like every one has a place on the planet. It also means to respect, care for, and love everyone just the way they are. I think the rainbow means that there are many colours for many people. When the colours of the rainbow come together and blend together, it is beautiful – like everyone here”.
What luck was it for me to be here this Shabbat. What luck for your kids! Kol HaKavod, Camp George.
Laura Wolfson is a lifelong Jewish Educator from Temple Anshe Sholom in Hamilton.