Religion at Shwayder Camp

18 07 2011

Note: This is a continuation of Camp!

Shwayder was different from other camps that I have experienced in several ways.  First, the campers and staff are mad with ruach and enthusiasm.  The song and dance sessions – sometimes planned and sometimes impromptu – went on for hours at a time and the kids had a ton of pride, both camp pride and Jewish pride.  (One song’s lyrics:  “I love Shwayder and Shwayder loves me!” over and over again.)  There is a prayer service each day at 5:30 pm, which is a combination of traditional Hebrew prayer and a unique service developed by a bunk to share with the camp.  All services are held outdoors when possible and the creativity is fantastic.

Where Services Are Held...  The Tree Is An Ark That Houses Their Torah

Where Services Are Held... The Tree Is An Ark That Houses Their Torah

At the same time, the absence of Jewish education and religious content was striking. The rabbi is not really allowed to teach the laws of kosher and Sabbath because they don’t want the experience to be ‘too religious’ and I was surprised to see pizza served at the same meal as hotdogs, and cheese and chicken on the same salad bar.  Also, a large number of the staff had tattoos, something traditionally frowned upon in Judaism.

As the week went on, these things normalized and grew on me a bit more.  The kitchen doesn’t cook the meat and milk together – the food selections are put out there so that each person can make their own choice.  Though it’s not necessarily the religious environment in which I would place my current (non-existent) children, I dig that there is flexibility and acceptance for people to live as they choose.  There are campers who are openly gay and that is accepted, and a senior member of the camp administration is engaged to a non-Jew and that is accepted, as well.  I wonder if there is much that wouldn’t be accepted in that camp setting (aside from safety and legal issues, of course).

Ayo Presenting Faces of Israel To The 12-16 Year Old Campers and Staff

Ayo Presenting Faces of Israel To The 12-16 Year Old Campers and Staff

We head to Ramah Outdoor Adventure, another Jewish camp, this afternoon.  It will be fun to continue the camp theme for the week, and will also be interesting religiously to experience the transition of environments from Reform (Shwayder) to Conservative (Ramah) to pluralistic and Orthodox as I continue to travel in the coming two weeks.

Eight camps in one summer – boy, am I making up for lost time!

posted by ayo




2 responses

18 07 2011

I LOVE camp as well! Just catching up on your blog after about a week off-line. So cool to see you guys are getting in some ‘ol fashioned camp time & hosting some programs too. Awesome!

19 07 2011

By the way just nominated you guys for the 7 Links Challenge on my blog today. Lookin’ forward to your take on it!

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