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Summer is Coming: A Look at Shabbat at Camp vs. Home

Summer is Coming: A Look at Shabbat at Camp vs. Home

Here is how I spend a Shabbat at camp.

I take a shower and try to tame my hair. I put on some nice-ish clothes and throw an EpiPen‎ and a bunch of Band-Aids and pens into a fanny pack. I grab my walkie-talkie and walk down the rows to check in on all of my bunks. I help a few of the girls finish their friendship bracelets. I watch a few of the boys finish up a Magic: The Gathering card game. I walk back up to Girls Row and wait, with my friends and with my campers, for the “Shabbat walk” to come our way, so we can walk, singing, into the dining hall together. We eat a meal surrounded by people from every unit, all of us together. Then we head to services – outside, hopefully – which are followed by dancing and singing and unreal amounts of joy.

Here is how I spend Shabbat at home.

Sometimes, I hate to admit, I forget that it’s Friday. I have class, and I have work, and I have errands to run and things to write and books to read and enough to do that I barely remember to take time to breathe. Every once in awhile, I find myself at a NFTY youth group event or a L’taken seminar or even the URJ Biennial, and all of a sudden, I’m reminded that Shabbat is a big deal, and I really like celebrating it.

It’s not that I’m not busy at camp. It’s just that I’m busy in different ways, and the work we do at camp is so centered on embracing Judaism that taking time to relax during services feels almost like a job requirement.

Part of what makes Shabbat so unique at camp is that it’s a chance to slow down, to spend a little time with our community as a whole. Not just the kids we share bunk beds with, or the bunk whose bathroom is shared with ours. Not just our unit, and not just our friends. All of us, together, in song and in dance and in prayer. In free time spent in the lake and in Saturday morning doughnut breakfast. In something a little different. In something a little special.

Time at camp works a little differently. As the song “Summertime Forever,” which we sing every Friday night, reminds us, “The days are weeks, and each hour is a day” at camp. At camp, we’re in a bubble. At camp, time bends in weird ways, but it always feels like our time there is centered around Shabbat. Like Shabbat is our focal point, that we build to and ebb away from. Like it’s important. Because, of course, it is.

Summer is coming soon. I know it by the countdown clock I have saved on my computer screen that too slowly ticks down the days until I can drive off to the URJ Crane Lake Camp, a Reform Jewish summer camp in the Berkshires. I know it by the number of emails I get asking for paperwork for staffing. I know it by the messages I get from friends about who is coming back this summer and who won’t be and asking questions about everything we’re so excited about. I know it by the way that the sunsets come later and the days feel longer, and how sometimes I can walk outside without a jacket on.

Summer is coming soon, and it’s all I can think about this Shabbat, when I am at home in D.C., dreaming of Massachusetts. Because out of all of the things I love about camp, it’s possible I love Shabbat the most. And as my countdown ticks down, my excitement riles up.

Summer is coming soon. And I can’t wait to see you there.

Jordan Pelavin can probably be found working at any Union for Reform Judaism event near you. She is an alumna of URJ Camp Harlam and was a staff member there, as well as at URJ Kutz Camp and URJ Crane Lake Camp. She blogs at Minimally Eschew and can also be found at

Jordan Pelavin
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