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Friday, October 10, 2008

Sharing Simcha -- Part VI

Natasha comfortably slid onto the stool beside the pottery wheel. It was her fifth year in Camp Simcha, and she already knew the ropes. A workshop head joined her and began to offer her some ideas .
"Would you like to make a vase? A bowl?" She showed her some of the beautiful pieces that other campers had finished.
But Natasha already knew what she wanted.
"Candles," she said. "I will make candles for Shabbat."
So the "pot heads" helped her craft a perfect pair of ceramic candlesticks, possibly a first for them, too. And Natasha took them home, carefully wrapped, so that she could continue to light Shabbos candles as she'd done in camp.
Camp Simcha is not a kiruv camp. Kids from irreligious backgrounds are allowed to be themselves, no one tries to push yiddishkeit on anyone there. Nevertheless, being surrounded by so many mitzvos and so much ahavas Yisrael creates an indelible impression upon everyone who is privileged to walk the grounds. Sometimes it is more immediately visible, other times the impact is more subtle. It is there. For some, it's their only connection to practicing Jews.
Natasha did not have any religious education. She barely even spoke English. But she felt her counselors' love and caring so deeply that she wanted to become more like them. Realizing that all of her adored staff members wore skirts, she bought some extra skirts to bring to camp. Eventually she started wearing them more during the year as well. At meals, she asked her counselor to wash and say the blessing with her. And of course, every Shabbos she lit the candles.
She's not alone. Over my years on staff, I've seen many Jewish sparks aroused -- not through sermons or missionizing, but through fun, friendship, and caring. Ellaine made herself a siddur cover in leather shop, and found a transliterated siddur in the camp shul to grace with it. (Now she's called Elana -- in camp, at least). A teen who may, at home, be considered "on the fringe" herself leads a group of unaffiliated bunkmates in the bracha on the Shabbos candles. Girls in shorts and sleeveless tops walk through the campgrounds singing "Everybody wants Moshiach..." Sophie wished me a "Happy Rosh Hashana," though she probably never celebrated it herself. After participating in Menucha's bat mitzvah party in camp, Jenny decided she wanted a bat mitzva, too (and made herself a tallit for the occasion in arts 'n' crafts!)...
And Katie learned quickly that while no one had heard of her hometown, she could put herself on the "Jewish Geography" map by saying she lives "near Lakewood." ;-)

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Baila said...

Hi! You recently commented on my blog, and now reading through yours, I see you're a staff member at Camp Simcha. Do you know my daughter? She was curious. Can you e-mail me (address at my blog).

Thanks, and Shana Tova!

The Babysitter said...

those are really cute inspiring stories, it's nice to hear them.

Anonymous said...

shana tov and gemar chasima tovah from a old friend from a past life :-)

Bas~Melech said...

Baila -- I emailed you :-)
Babysitter -- Thanks for the feedback.
Nuch -- Shalom! Same to you.

Did everyone miss Part V because I posted this too soon, or did you just not have anything to say? Because even though it's hard to put into words, the moment was one of my favorites...