Rabbi Mark Kaiserman: The Reform Temple of Forest Hills, Queens, New York
We finish the Torah portion Matot this Shabbat and the book of Numbers with it. It seems well-timed as Sci-Tech finishes its session and summer after this Shabbat as well. At the conclusion of reading a book of the Torah, we say, “Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazek – From Strength to Strength May We Be Strengthened.” We celebrate the past at the same moment we look to the future.
That’s a lot of what camp is all about. Bringing our strengths into the next year to be better and stronger than before. This is my 4th summer as visiting faculty. I see such strength in the staff and campers that come back every year. They exemplify stability, history, continuity, energy, and wisdom. And then there is the new staff (including some former campers) and new campers who see camp with fresh eyes, interpreting where we’ve been and bringing new traditions and their own energy to Sci-Tech.
Camp has changed over the years. The Outdoor Sanctuary was moved a few years ago. The Gaga Pit is in a whole new spot too. When talking to veteran staff, they shared the biggest changes they’ve felt was the size of the camp. When they first started, every staff member knew every camper. Now the camp is bigger and more robust – knowing everyone would be quite the challenge.
Changes require openness. Changes in the strength of our past don’t mean losing out but embracing camp in different ways. In the past, it might have been more general connections that helped campers. Today, a larger, more professional, and specifically skilled staff meets the needs of campers more directly.
I love coming to Sci-Tech and immediately seeing familiar moments from the past. Morning Boker Big Bang still has a big scientific explosion to meet the day. The Sci-Tech Torah (like our own Torahs) is still the same, but every year a few new pages created by campers – Torah words matched with science facts – enhance and grow our learning. Just as we see the Torah with new eyes everywhere as we read it, we see camp with new eyes and appreciation for the past and the present.
Summer 2019 draws to a close. We built many strengths this summer to enhance the lives of our amazing campers. And next summer, we will draw on them as we build a new summer of strengths. From Strength to Strength May We Be Strengthened.