This blog is written by Leah Finkelman, Session 3 Faculty.

As one of our five Core Values, kavod (respect) is infused into everything we do at Sci-Tech. At the start of every session, every dorm and workshop creates a brit, or covenant. Rather than simply being a list of rules imposed upon campers by a counselor or instructor, the brit is a shared and sacred agreement, co-created and co-signed by campers and staff. If you look at each brit, you’ll see references to respect—promises to respect each other, themselves, the space, the materials, and the community. If you look around camp, you’ll see that campers truly understand what it looks like and sounds like to respect others, and how it feels to be respected.

For many campers, camp is the one place they are immersed in the Jewish community. Camp is a place where they can grow and learn, and for some, the one space they feel truly comfortable living authentically. While here, they live Sci-Tech’s values by building kesherim, connections, making tagliot, discoveries, by balancing sakranut, curiosity, with savlanut, patience. None of this is possible without first building that baseline of kavod.

Leah Finkelman,left,planning Shalectives with staff and campers

At Sci-Tech, we show respect by seeing each other as individuals, respecting and celebrating other’s unique interests, skills, needs, and identities. Campers advocate for themselves and for each other when they’re struggling. They ask each other thoughtful questions and invite new friends to learn and play with them. They ask each others’ pronouns and share their own because they know that we all deserve to feel seen. Even when competing, they work to see each other’s strengths while celebrating their own. They don’t get it all right every time, but to watch them try and then watch them fix it when they’ve missed the mark is beautiful.

When I was a camper at another URJ camp, the respect that I developed for myself, my friends, and for camp itself went hand-in-hand with the love I felt, enhancing each other until I made a career out of helping Jewish children find their way to camp and other meaningful experiential and immersive experiences. That love and respect, which I see so clearly reflected in the interactions of Sci-Tech campers each day, is why I ended up back at camp nearly a decade after my last summer as a staff member.

Being back at camp has reminded me why I loved it so much in the first place. Camp is powerful because it removes the extra noise of day-to-day life—there’s no homework, no dance class, and you’re not being pulled in other directions unless you’re choosing which Shalective or Sababa activity to go to. Without those tensions, you’re able to take a breath, relax, appreciate and show respect for the beauty and holiness around you—in the physical space, in the community you’re building, and in yourself. Camp taught me that Judaism is all about finding the community that helps you do just that, and I feel so blessed to come #BacktoByfield and spend these two weeks with my Sci-Tech family!