For many of us, summer is a time when there is a change of pace in our lives, when children are out of school and perhaps off to camp, when we go on vacation, and immerse ourselves in baseball. For my family, the highlight of the summer was going to Camp Coleman. Both of our kids got to be campers for a full week—experiencing Jewish summer camp in its fullness for the first time. After returning, Ezra happily declared camp to be better than a Disney cruise – high praise from any young child.
Our kids’ happy experiences weren’t out of the ordinary. Camp Coleman brings nearly a thousand kids from all over Georgia, Florida, and other nearby places over the course of the summer. Other nearby Jewish camps, such as Camp Barney and Six Points, also bring in lots of kids for the summer. And these summers are, to use a cliché, amazing. While I was there, they put me hard at work being a referee for capture the flag, judging synchronized swimming, leading worship services, and teaching about Judaism. Yet, perhaps the best part of it all was seeing kids be kids. Camp Coleman has a strict “no technology” rule for campers – they’re not allowed to have phones, Nintendo switches, or anything of the sort. The result? As kids were largely disconnected from devices and the outside world, they built meaningful and wonderful connections with each other. And they discovered the joys of camp, friendship, and their Jewish tradition. Whether it was seeing kids completing art projects, playing sports, reading a book, or joining in a lively, musical service or song session, Camp felt filled with life. For anyone thinking of sending their children to sleepaway camp, I highly recommend it.
Whatever we did over the last few months, though, summer is soon going to give way to fall. In the Jewish calendar, that means Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah are around the corner. These are times of renewal, yet our tradition emphasizes that renewal is a process, not a moment. We contribute to our renewal in many ways – whether it’s time away over the summer, the observance of Shabbat, making a new friend, reading a new book, entering a new class and grade at school, and so on. The High Holy Days encourage us to focus on our renewal so that we don’t get stuck in life, so that we’re not satisfied with the status quo, so that we can realize that things can improve, whether that means society or our personal lives.
As we end summer and move into the new Jewish year of 5784, may we all be blessed with renewal and rejuvenation. May the year ahead be filled with blessings and goodness.