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Creating Ritual at Camp JRF

I am blessed to go to Camp JRF each week to facilitate a Tikkun Olam Havayah (repairing the world experience). I bring to each eidah (unit) an issue in the world, a Jewish value that encompasses the issue, and an organization that helps correct the issue. This summer, I was asked to write the curriculum using the framework of the parashah (Torah portion of the week.) In most cases, this wasn’t a difficult challenge, however, a few weeks ago, I was suddenly stumped. The parashah was Balak, which made the theme of the havayah: “Blessings and Curses.” No problem!, I thought. I knew exactly the resource I wanted to highlight: Ritualwell.org. I wrote the plan and got ready for the campers.

On the way to camp that week, I was thinking about the lesson I was about to share with the campers. I had the plan ready, but what was the issue? I was at a loss for words. The activity was set; we were going to talk about appreciation and blessings and then the hanihim (campers) would write their own rituals after learning about what goes into creating a ritual. But what was the issue that needed correcting, for which Ritualwell offered a solution? And then it came to me: We don’t appreciate all that we see and all that we have on a regular basis. This was the opening sentence of the havayah. I asked the campers, “Do you agree that this is an issue?” All agreed. Each camper was challenged to come up with over 20 things they appreciate or are grateful for in 60 seconds. Not many hanihim could meet that challenge, but we did come up with a huge list of things for which we are grateful. 

We introduced Ritualwell.org to the hanihim and talked about the ten things to consider when creating a ritual. Each tzrif (bunk) was asked to come up with a ritual that symbolizes an important part of their camp experience. Some tzrifim (bunks) modified rituals that already exist like bedtime rituals or rituals we have in the hadar ochel (dining room). Others created new rituals, such as how to welcome a new camper, incorporating mezuzot in the Eco-village, or a ritual to use when at Etgar (challenge course). We even had a few groups who wanted to bring back old rituals that have disappeared from Camp JRF in the past few years. The hanihim really seemed to enjoy the ownership found in creating new rituals using their own personal experiences. 

I shared with the parents that they, too, could create new rituals. If you cannot find a ritual right for your occasion, write your own and submit it to Ritualwell! In the meantime, try to see how many things you can list that you are grateful for in 60 seconds. It is a challenge to consider!

Lori Rubin has worked in formal and informal Jewish education for over twenty-five years. She has served as Director of jkidphilly and jteenphilly at Jewish Learning Venture, director of both congregation-based supplementary and early childhood schools in the Philadelphia area, and Director of Education at Camp JRF. These varied experiences, which include work across movements, enable her to identify ways to reach, build relationships with, and develop unique programs for families at all stages of their Jewish journeys. Lori has a passion for family engagement and enjoys helping congregations better understand and serve their families. She is very excited about Havayah: A Jewish Community Experience, which she will be directing in Fall 2016. Havayah is a program of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, Gratz College, and Jewish Learning Venture. Lori has an M.Ed. from Beaver College, now Arcadia University.

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