From the Rabbi - August 2014 Print
In his book “All I really needed to know I learned in kindergarten” Robert Fulgham explains (as the title suggests!) that all the basic truths were learned in kindergarten:  Share everything; play fair; don't hit people; put things back where you found them; clean up your own mess; say you're sorry when you hurt somebody; when you go out in the world, watch out for traffic; hold hands and stick together.

As I discovered during my week at Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, TX and previously at Camp George in Ontario, the same is true of Jewish summer camp.  Many, if not all, the same lessons can be learned there as well as some new ones like: you never know if you like something until you try it; it’s good to be who you really are and not who everyone tells you should be; you have to fall off the waterskis a lot before you get it right and that’s part of the fun!

Growing up in the UK we didn’t have the same kind of amazing camp experiences (Jewish or otherwise!) as we do here.  It has been a revelation seeing how wonderful these camps can be, both as a member of faculty, teaching Judaism to the kids as part of the camp experience, and as a parent, watching my own daughter be inspired by Jewish summer camp.                                                     
Why is Jewish Summer camp so important?  Jewish summer camp has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to form Jewish identity in Jewish youth. In part it is because it is a great place to form good values.  The values of friendship, respect and community were among the Jewish values we focused on during my week at Greene Family Camp, and giving the campers the opportunity to connect Jewish values to their camp experiences and to their lives at home. 

More importantly, in a world where involvement in Jewish life comes from a feeling of engagement rather than from a sense of obligation, Jewish summer camp is a great way of showing young Jews that Judaism is fun, meaningful, and inspiring.  It helps to show them that this is something to love and cherish and not just something they do because their parents tell them they must.  They learn to be inspired by a love of Judaism and to make it a significant part of their daily lives.  This, perhaps, more than any other reason is why Greene Family Camp calls itself a camp for Living Judaism.  Indeed, Greene Family camp has recently been made a hub for youth engagement in the region, and will be creating programs to reach out to youth throughout Texas and Oklahoma. 

And these are lessons that are as important for adult Jews as they are for our youth.  Judaism has a long and proud history, but we must also ensure that it has a long and proud future. We can learn from the experience of Jewish summer camp - the enthusiasm, the passion, the sense of fun - that inspire our youth at camp, and be inspired by them also.  Just as Greene Family Camp is a hub for Living Judaism among the youth of Texas and Oklahoma, we can strive to make that spirt of Living Judaism a central part of our own congregational life and ensure that CBI continues to be a vibrant hub for Jewish life in Corpus Christi for many years to come. 

                        Rabbi Emanuel