A Story of Jewish Summer Camp

There is, of course, the obvious direction that this prompt could take me in writing about inclusion and Jewish special needs education. 

But I think that #BlogElul is a little bit about pushing our boundaries; a challenge to reach beyond the obvious, to dig a little deeper and to hopefully stumble upon the potential for significant and meaningful reflection. So I would like to share a personal story.

Accept - A story of Jewish Summer Camp; Removing the Stumbling BlockThis week (and next) I have the good fortune to be serving on the faculty at URJ Camp Harlam. It is an opportunity unlike any other in my professional and personal life. It is challenging and it is rewarding. It is both exhausting and exhilarating. I love that I have this chance to build relationships with campers and staff, and I relish the possibility that I may impact, in some way, their Jewish lives. I am honored to accept this responsibility.

And when I am at camp, I do things that I never do anywhere else. Here’s the perfect example: I am not artistic. Art actually makes me fairly uncomfortable. I am creative, but I am absolutely not crafty.  I shy away from things that require drawing or other artistic skills.  And I accept this about myself. Except at camp. Camp is the place to break out of my comfort zone. We expect this of our campers, we even actively encourage it. So why should it be any different for me? I love camp and I am proud to both support and promote camp. But to do those things well, I need to live camp. Really live camp. And so, while at camp, I find myself gravitating to omanut (the art shack) where I have made candles, a drawstring backpack, a hand-crafted yad (Torah pointer), numerous tie dyes, a mosaic and have even done Shrinky Dinks! 

Thank you, Camp Harlam, for giving me the same gift that you give to every other person who passes through your gates. Thank you for accepting me for who I am while giving me the courage to grow, explore and reach past my own perceived limitations.

And in this we can find our lesson of inclusion. For what we need give to our students, our congregants, our friends and our family members with disabilities is this same gift. We must accept each of them for who they are while giving them the courage to grow, explore and reach beyond their own perceived limitations. It is possible.  If you need a model, just come to camp.

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