More from our “Shabbat at camp” series…
It’s there every Friday night as the sun begins to set, casting the entire camp in its shadow. It’s there as a sea of blue and white makes its way to mifkad (camp-wide assembly), laughing and cheering with excitement. It’s there during davening (prayers), as the campers and counselors alike dance to the familiar tunes and it’s there as they make their way up to the Chadar Ochel (dining hall) for dinner, arms linked and singing zemirot (shabbat songs). And it remains there all through the night and spilling over to the next day, all the way until Havdalah is over and the week is once again upon us. So, what exactly is ‘it’, this thing I’m talking about? Some call it serenity; others call it a feeling of wholeness. Still others say it feels like going home. I have no definition for you- all I can tell you is that ‘it’ is found in spades every Shabbat at Camp Moshava Ennismore.
There is something incredibly uplifting about standing with your bunk and you entire eidah (unit) at mifkad on Friday night, and just feeling the closeness and unity. Whatever differences and divisions we may put up between ourselves hold no sway on Shabbat. They simply melt away, leaving behind a kind of achdut (unity) that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. It is on Shabbat that you get to just take a deep breath and relax with your friends and your counselors. It is on Shabbat that you sit outside and talk to people you normally wouldn’t, laughing and eating junk food. It is on Shabbat that you can get pulled into board game tournament that lasts for hours – everything from Bananagrams to Monopoly to Trivial Pursuit. And it is on Shabbat that you get to fully enjoy your summer without thinking about which peulah (activity) you have next or what to order from shekem (canteen). In the real world, Shabbat is a respite in every sense of the word; a retreat that refreshes and invigorates you. It is even more necessary in camp, in a place where it feels like you never stop moving. Shabbos is more than something you enjoy – it is something you need. And it something you cherish.
As someone who’s been at camp for over 50 Shabbatot, I consider myself something of an expert. And I can honestly tell you that Shabbat at camp is like nothing you have or will ever experience. It has a magic that is all its own, and it never fails to move me. I’ve been to camps that have more kids, different facilities and more staff, but I have never been to a camp that has more spirit. And that spirit is seen every week, from Friday night to the end of Shabbat, as everyone – from the children in gan (daycare) to tzevet bachir (senior staff) – savors every second and prays for it to last. And even though they know it won’t, they also know that there is always next week, and then a next. And long after that tzevet bachir is gone and those gan kids are all grown up, Shabbat at camp will remain exactly what it is – unforgettable.
- Meir Balofsky, Director of Programming, Camp Moshava in Ennismore, ON