This blog is written by Rabbi Dr. Kari Tuling, Session 3 Faculty.
The campers are slapping their legs, making sounds resembling rolling thunder, while intoning: “kol haolam kulo….” Gesher T’zar M’od is a popular Hebrew song, drawn from a text by the Hasidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. It starts low and rumbling and builds to an enthusiastic ending of joyous hand claps. It’s always a Sci-Tech favorite; there’s often a hoot of excitement when the opening chords are recognized. The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the most important thing is to not be afraid.
Here at Sci-Tech, we have a narrow bridge extending over the main road, linking two of the dorms to the rest of the campus. There’s a sign posted midway across the bridge with the text of Gesher T’zar M’od. It’s one of the small yet meaningful ways in which Judaism is woven into the fabric of camp.
This year, we understand the meaning of this text in a deeper way than previous years. We had to navigate the challenges of a worldwide pandemic to come together. Last year, camp took place entirely online. Thankfully this year, we made it back to Byfield to enjoy Summer 2021 together! There was a moment when the song leaders were practicing for the Shabbat services where I felt teary, overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude that we could have this moment together.
One of our core values at Sci Tech is that of taglit, or discovery: we seek to discover new things as part of our camp experience. When we engage in discovery, we find that camp is still camp, even as we adapt. Many of the new discoveries for Sci-Tech this summer are procedures put in place to keep us all safe: PCR tests and podding, face masks and distancing, hand sanitizer and Zooming. We adapted as a kehillah kadosha, a holy community: the Boker Big Bang moved to a larger space, so we can keep pods further apart; a Zoom-based shira, an all-camp recitation of the Bedtime Sh’ma with songs and meditation replaced enthusiastic song sessions after dinner in the chadar ochel, the dining hall. Some of these adaptations and taglitot, or discoveries, will be employed this year only; others may become new traditions that we keep year to year.
The most important thing is to not be afraid. At the same time, we are not to be foolhardy. We should take all the steps that are necessary to keep the kids and the staff safe. Rather, as the text suggests, we are to have courage, to find ways to move forward even as we navigate the narrow bridge.
We have indeed done that. Courage in heart, we are able to engage in our value of taglit, of making ongoing discoveries, throughout the summer with ease and joy. Though the kids are wearing masks as they participate in Shabbat song sessions and other all-camp gatherings, their enthusiasm is as strong as ever.