Shabbat Unplugged, by Jenny Ferentz

Jenny Ferentz, a counselor at Camp JRF, reflects on what makes the celebration of Shabbat at camp so special…

Shabbat at Camp JRF is an experience that brings our community together—something we all look forward to and miss throughout the year. In preparing for Friday evening, we make an effort to clean up camp all together, we take a little longer with our showers, we dress up in our best clothes and we get ready to be cleansed over the next day. After completing this camp version of a mikvah, we gather for prayers that welcome in Shabbat. We then eat dinner family style and, after boisterous thanks for our food, we dance and sing the songs we will know for the rest of our lives. We wake up on Saturday morning ready for services in our beautiful outdoor beit tefillah (sanctuary)—one of my favorite places to be—and then spend the day relaxing and having fun in the pool, the lake, the sun, and the camp grounds. After dinner we have Shabbat Unplugged (our version of a talent show), havdalah, and medurah (campfire) singing. At Camp JRF, everybody loves Saturday night!

It is hard to put into words what makes Shabbat so special for us. For me, it is not just the dancing, the food, or the much-needed extra sleep, but the holy way in which we observe the sacred time of Shabbat. When I stand in our all-camp spiral for havdalah, surrounded by people I love so much, I close my eyes and breathe. I breathe in the calm I try so desperately to keep during the week, the sense of security I fight to carry with me during the year, and, finally, the feeling of belonging that has shaped the person I am today.

Watch a video of Camp JRF campers learning to sing “Layehudim,” a prayer typically sung during havdalah.

Jenny Ferentz is a junior at The Johns Hopkins University and a Cornerstone Fellow at Camp JRF.