July 1, 2018

A Meaningful Shabbat

By Rachael Speck

Shavua Tov!   It feels great to say that after the amazing Shabbat weekend we had here at camp.  Shabbat is one of my favorite times of the week.  It’s a time for us to slow down, to reflect on the week we just had and to rest and reset for the week ahead.

As Sam mentioned in a previous post, EKC is part of a national initiative known as Hiddur.  Hiddur is a 3-year pilot program through the Foundation for Jewish Camp and Avi Chai Foundation that allows us to amplify the Jewish at camp.  To look deeper at the Jewish experience we are giving to our campers and staff, and examine the impact it is having on their Jewish identities.  One of the reasons I really love being a part of this program is because it’s made us more intentional about how we “do Jewish” at EKC.

Shabbat services these past 2 weeks have more meaningful and different, in a good way.  Maybe it’s the new amphitheater benches.  As awesome as they look, and as comfortable as our tushies are, the benches are only a small part of it.  The surround sound system and AV equipment are new; our siddurs are new, our Jewish educator, Alex Malanych, is new.   Alex, along with our incredible song leader Mason Solomon, are giving us Shabbat services that have a new look and feel, and it’s taking the Jewish experience in this camp to a whole new level.

Shabbat morning was even more special for teens.  They went to services Friday night and then got to choose a track to experience Shabbat morning in a way that interests them.  They could choose from nature, yoga, cooking and sports.  We had guest facilitators lead some of these sessions.

The nature track went on a Shabbat morning hike and learned about how Judaism takes note of the need to care for the natural environment.   During the hike they talked about what it means to live in an environmentally aware Jewish home and how Shabbat becomes a model for relating to the environment.

The cooking track, facilitated by Rabbi Ron Symons, Senior Director of Jewish Life at the Pittsburgh JCC, grilled out challah French toast over the open fire and learned about hunger and food insecurity in West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.  They spoke about how easy it is at home to go into their kitchens and grab food, and how easy it also is in the dining hall here at camp.  They discussed how we make assumptions about the accessibility of food.  They explored the deeper meaning as to why we say Hamotzi and Birkat Hamazon and how that influences traditions at EKC.  Campers walked away with a better understanding of food, privilege, and spirituality that they will carry with them year round.

The sports track, led by Alex Speck (my husband), and Program Director of Tree of Life * Or L’Simcha, learned about famous Jewish athletes and the Jewish values they embody most.  They discussed which Jewish values are most applicable to the sports we play and why.  They talked about what prayers are most relevant in sports, and heard the story of the 11 Israeli athletes that were killed in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics.

The yoga track did a yoga session with Jennifer Ferris Glick, owner of Illume Pittsburgh.  She tied in some Shabbat meditation and relaxation techniques to teach our campers how to get in touch with their physical side and truly experience rest on Shabbat.

We ended the week at Havdallah where we circled up around the flagpole to close out Shabbat.  We raised our middah (value) banner to reveal this week’s Jewish value, Derech Eretz, “right action.”

After a meaningful weekend, we’ve got an exciting week to look forward to!  Today all of our Halutzim campers got to learn how to scuba dive with Splash Watersports.  Our safari-themed Sababa is tonight.  Tomorrow is Yom Israel Day, 4th of July is Wednesday and teens are going roller skating this week!  It’s extra hot and sunny so we will be spending some extra time in the pools and the lake.  It’s hard to believe the session is already halfway over.  Yet there is still so much fun to be had.

Have a great week everyone!