From Rabbi Toba Schaller – July 1, 2017 from Ha-Kol

July 1st, 2017 by

Dear Congregation,

By the time you read this note I’ll be gone … to OSRUI for two weeks on the camp’s faculty team!

As I write this letter, I am beginning the first of my camp preparations. I have the packing list on the fridge this time I am starting to gather not only the clothing and supplies that Arvie and I will need for our two week stay, but I’m also gathering my files of Hebrew games, my books on Esther and my materials for a staff workshop on micro-aggressions.

As a faculty member this summer I am in charge of leading twice daily prayer, Hebrew and Judaica instruction for OSRUI’s amazing arts unit, Tiferet. Campers spend their time at camp exploring a Judaic topic (this summer they’re studying the Megillot) through artistic projects with artists from all over the world. These campers take their art seriously and I get to figure out how to help them to infuse Jewish learning in every aspect of their art. I have been warned that while other units may study from text sheets or simple skits, one of last summer’s successful Tiferet limmudim (lessons) involved covering the dance studio in paper and painting texts through dance across its walls. I can’t wait to push my own creative limits and find ways to learn Hebrew and text in exciting new ways with campers and staff.

I also can’t wait to spend time with CEEBJ campers in the relaxed atmosphere of campfires and sing alongs, services under the stars and an occasional dance party too. I look forward spoiling them with extra treats whenever possible and sneaking photos home to you if I can. Though I grew up in a congregation so small we rarely had our own rabbi, the relationships with clergy I met at camp were foundations for my Jewish identity and those rabbis are the role models that helped me toward the rabbinate and continue to support me today, I relish the opportunity to do the same for the next generations of campers.

Of all that I hope to do and to offer while at camp, I most anticipate not what I will give but what I will receive. Not only will I have the chance to think creatively, but I will certainly be creatively inspired by all that I see around me. From new songs to new games, from exciting teaching models to different styles of worship, camp offers diversity and creativity and is truly where next year’s synagogue trends begin. Camp will help me know just what song to play to build up energy on opening day of Religious School and a new version of mi chamocha to spice up T’filah, and will probably give me a few ideas of what to do with all those art supplies in our basement. Even more importantly, my time at camp will help me to build relationships with clergy and educators from across the region, so that when I can’t come up with an idea for all that tissue paper or the perfect new tune for T’filah, I’ll know just who to call.

As Rabbi-Director of Lifelong Learning you’ll be catching me singing the praises of a summer at camp for our youth. I’m even working on a camp themed day in the winter where campers (past, present, and future) and parents can learn about about the amazing opportunities camp offers children (and how to make it happen for yours).

 However, as valuable as camp is for campers, it offers just as much for staff and faculty. I can’t wait to bring fresh ideas and energy from camp back to the congregation with me this summer and am so thankful for the opportunity to attend.

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