May 22, 2020

Today marks the last day of school for my children. My oldest, a fourth grader, was glad to be done with distance learning for the year, though he is still upset that the class milestone multi-day Texas History trip was cancelled. My second grader loathed distance learning and couldn’t be happier to say goodbye to online assignments. My kindergartner, on the other hand, burst into tears after her class’s final Zoom call yesterday because she loves school so much and wants it to continue this summer.

Each of my kids has responded to this period in quarantine differently. One is content to play video games with his friends and would spend all day on FaceTime with them in front of a screen if we let him. My youngest (and most independent) has thrived on being free to create, has rediscovered Legos, and is happy as could be. My middle could really use some in-person quality time with her friends.

As we move into summer, I am pondering how to fill their days. At a time when we would normally be preparing to move to camp for the summer, we are instead trying to piece together a summer that will simultaneously engage them, allow them to relax, and pull them away from screens for a bit of time. Oh, yeah – they should also have fun!

When we made the decision to cancel our in-person summer program at GFC, we pivoted to begin thinking about what it would mean to create a meaningful program in its place. We heard from you that alongside a meaningful program, we need to find a way to bring our campers together – in bunks, units, and as a whole community. We want to do so with purpose, so that our “Zoomed-Out” community has a reason to log in and be together. We want to bring the fun that is essential to camp, the community that is so important, and the intention that you have come to expect from us.

V’asu li mikdash v’shochanit b’tocham,” “make for Me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among you”, the Israelites are commanded by God in parashat Terumah. Though it is not this week’s parasha, this verse has been on my mind as of late. Each summer, we build a sanctuary at camp. Our campers, staff, and faculty enter a bubble of holiness in which they can be themselves, find joy in the mundane, and ask hard questions they may not feel comfortable asking elsewhere. They connect with each other without the help of a screen. They try new things and perfect skills. They deepen friendships and make new ones. We build a sanctuary, a holy space, that seems to exist in a bubble.

We are challenged this summer to create a different kind of sanctuary, one where we find ways to connect with each other in ways that may or may not involve the help of technology. Our campers can look forward to being in “bunks” and fulfilling daily challenges. They may participate in all-camp programs like Yom Yisrael and Maccabiah (shhh!). They will experience Shabbat and havdallah, song sessions and Israeli dancing. We are so excited about what is in the works, and we cannot wait to share it with you soon.

“Build Me a sanctuary so that I may dwell among you.” This year, we will build that sanctuary with you, our camp families. Instead of entering the camp bubble in Bruceville, Texas, the bubble will widen to include all our households, and then some. Invite your friends and family into our sanctuary. Let’s create this holy space together.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Erin