Shalom from Camp Newman
Last Tuesday was the day campers arrived for the first day of the first session of Camp Newman 2014, and we greeted the arriving campers with cheering and song; by Tuesday night camp was already in full swing.
The days at camp have a rhythm. They have to in order for the schedules of so many campers to work together. Kids quickly learn the flow of meals and swimming and menucha (rest time) and tefillah and chugim (electives) and programs. By Thursday it’s already become routine, so everyone notices when things shift on Friday afternoon and we begin to prepare for Shabbat.
The rhythm of camp changes for Shabbat. During the week campers spend most of their time with their age group, so when on Shabbat the whole Camp Newman community comes together — starting with the CIT vs. staff frisbee game — it’s a big change. It continues with all-camp clean-up, when campers have extra time to clean up their cabins and to take a shower and dress in white. Shabbat is welcomed in a processional as the songleaders walk through camp singing Bo-ee Kallah (“Welcome Shabbat Bride”). The campers stream out of the cabins and follow them, more and more joining as they wind their way through the cabins until everyone comes together in the Beit Tefilah (our outdoor prayer space) to sing and worship together.
The Beit Tefilah is nestled into the side of a hill, surrounded by trees. We watch the sun set through the tops of the redwoods and pines. The highlight of the service is when the counselors take out colorful tallitot and spread them over the campers while blessing them.
Shabbat dinner is the only meal that the entire camp eats together at the same time, and it features brownies for dessert. Then the whole Camp Newman community heads up to the basketball courts to sing and dance together. The Shabbat schedule continues on Saturday, with extra time to read Torah and enjoy “Its-It” ice cream sandwiches in the afternoon.
We hosted the 15 campers and staff from Temple Ahavat Shalom in our cabin for a special Oneg Shabbat celebration on Saturday afternoon. When asked what the highlight of camp was so far, the kids agreed: Shabbat. At camp you can really feel that it is Shabbat; it is unlike celebrating Shabbat back at home or even with the synagogue. Everything changes on Shabbat and you can’t help but feel the joy and the sense of rest that comes with it.
When asked about other highlights of the first week at Camp Newman, the TAS campers also said climbing the tower, swimming, sharing inside jokes with their cabin mates, the ropes course, archery, and sports. For the campers who are in the new cabins, they also raved about the new buildings, the great view of the frisbee game from the balcony, and how the new bathrooms by the field are the best bathrooms in the whole camp. Ah, the simple pleasures of summer camp.