Why It's Important For Rabbis To Spend Time At Camp
By Rabbi Meredith Kahan, Faculty
We at Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati were so proud to send an amazing group of campers and counselors to GUCI this summer. Our crew included brand new campers and veterans of the program, young adults working as counselors, and even the Head Songleader and Director of Communications! It was an amazing summer for all our Rockdale GUCI-ites, especially for the other campers in the group – Rockdale’s rabbis!
In addition to Rabbi Sissy Coran, our Senior Rabbi who is currently serving on faculty, I had the privilege of spending two weeks at GUCI with all of camp’s kids and staff. For the second summer, I was given the incredible opportunity to live and learn, pray and celebrate, and play and create with the GUCI community. Each day, we take on a variety of responsibilities, including guiding shiurim and limudim (Judaic lessons), tutoring B’nai Mitzvah students, helping counselors create their own programs, leading Shabbat morning Torah services, and discussing Jewish concepts and current events with the Avodahnikim. But on any given day, we might also have the opportunity to sing and dance along to the Penguin Song, guest-lead a chug or lights-out program, make s’mores at 9:30am with the Garin campers, make tie-dye during a bunk night, or have a one-on-one conversation with a kid who is excited to chat with a rabbi! Being on faculty at camp is both awesome and awe-inspiring.
Still, you may be wondering – why is it important that your rabbis spend part of the summer on faculty at camp? Here are just a few reasons…
- Our campers and counselors take pride in seeing THEIR rabbis in an environment they think is cool!
- It’s a great professional development opportunity! We are exposed to amazing worship, creativity, Zionism, programming, music, and more – we return home with fresh ideas, melodies, and programs for our congregations and communities.
- We show our kids who are attending at camp that they are important! We spend two full weeks engaging with our young people in a different setting, enjoying informal (but important) interactions, and strengthening those relationships.
- Camp is also an important networking opportunity! We create and develop relationships with other rabbis, cantors, youth workers, and educators (of every generation!) in the Reform Jewish world. We grow and are inspired as professionals by partnering, working with, and learning from these colleagues.
- At camp, we participate in an intentional community where every single hour is spent living and learning Jewishly. For your rabbis on faculty, it provides 24/7 opportunities to talk with young people about important issues and ideas.
- We serve as Jewish role models for campers and counselors – showing them that rabbis are fun, “cool,” and energetic. Plus, we know many Jewish professionals entered their fields because of the positive experiences and interactions with the rabbis, cantors, youth workers, and educators they met at camp!
- Attending an overnight Jewish summer camp is one of the best ways to ensure a child’s future Jewish involvement as an adult – rabbinic attendance alongside our congregation’s kids shows that we value their Jewish choices.
- When a child’s rabbi goes to camp, it encourages that child (and his/her family) to choose camp, too! Our presence not only demonstrates the importance of camp, but also helps our newer campers feel at home.
- As an added bonus – we always remind our kids to wear sunscreen.
We rabbis, cantors, educators, and youth professionals who have the opportunity to spend time at camp throughout the summer are truly grateful to our congregations, agencies, and communities who allow us this important time of service and learning. I know I speak for my entire faculty cohort when I say I can’t wait to ‘til next summer at GUCI!
With thanks to the many CCAR rabbis who offered their wisdom on this important subject, with special mention of Rabbi Paul Kipnes for inspiring the discussion.
Rabbi Meredith Kahan is the Assistant Rabbi & Educator at Rockdale Temple in Cincinnati. She has come a long way since her days as a reluctant first-time GUCI camper in 1998. She loves Shabbat evening song sessions, tie-dyeing, Yom Sport, making new friends throughout the camp community, and of course, grilled cheese day in the Chadar Ochel!