Tuesday, July 26, 2011

camp and stuff wooo

Hey World,

So apparently my triumphant return to blogging was not as triumphant as I'd hoped, or well yeah I meant to start writing regularly again which didn't happen. I'm not going to make any promises, but I thought I'd write an update.

Right now my life is in such transition, and I'm getting a little tired of all the change. I got back from camp (more on that in a bit) 5 days ago, and in a day I am setting out on a road trip across the country to my new "home" in L.A....This is all after I just came back from the year in Israel. Where do I live?? Where is home? gahh. I am really excited about Los Angeles though. I think it will be a nice change. I am ready to settle down there for a few years (hopefully, but you never know right?).

So yeah I spent the last month working at Kutz camp, which is a camp for Reform Jewish teens in NY. It was awesome, I enjoyed it immensely. Not to say that it was easy, but the people I worked with and the participants (that's what they call the campers because camper sounds too juvenile or something) I interacted with were great!!

At Kutz the participants choose majors that they spend 2-3 hours a day (except Saturdays) focusing on. I had the pleasure of teaching the Torah Corps major, which is Jewish studies stuff. Basically I was given the freedom to teach whatever I wanted about Judaism to these people who CHOSE to learn. I ended up at Kutz after a friend at HUC told me that she had "the perfect job for me", and I applied and got hired. Seriously though this was the perfect job for me. Why? I LOVE Jewish texts and studying texts/discussing Jewish topics (surprise haha) and I got to take this love I have and share all the interesting stuff I have learned and am passionate about with a captive and enthusiastic audience. While the Torah Corps major was small (6 people) we had a great group dynamic and a lot of awesome discussions.

I based my curriculum off of three themes/strings/whatever. One was stories in the Talmud. I wanted to share my love of Talmud with the participants in my major and I thought this would be a great way to do so. While the Talmud is not very accessible, I find that many of the stories in the Talmud do have some universal themes or at least interesting discussion topics embedded in them. One day we did "rabbis with laser vision day" and did two different stories with rabbis who ended up getting mad and destroying things with their eyes. etc.

The second string/theme/whatever was "why do we do what we do" and looking at various topics in Judaism/Jewish law and how they've evolved and how as Reform Jews we can relate to them. So we did a day on kashrut and conversion, and one on tattoos and more. We even had a day where we did a mock beit din (mock trial type deal) and argued about instruments on shabbat, complete with some crazy "witnesses".

The third string was looking at the weekly torah portion. There's some good stuff in the Torah over the summer...oh and all year long. woot.

Then on top of that I taught a minor each week. Participants take 2 minors each week and they can either be for one week or all session long. Minors are each an hour long. I taught some fun minors also. It was great to teach and also meet more of the participants. I taught 3 different ones. The first week I did a prayer minor, with mixed results. I would say we had some awesome conversations and talked about God and lots of heavy stuff, we did some about prayer, it was a good time. Week 2 I taught "women in the Torah/Talmud" surprise surprise I had a group of girls (or should I say strong women, because they were). While for the most part women are pretty week in our Jewish texts there are a few kickass women out there. Like Yael, Bruriah, Vashti, maybe even Lilith? Woo girl power. Then week 3 I did a "superpowers/supernatural" minor which was inspired by the day in my major about rabbis with laser vision. There is so much interesting and crazy stuff in the bible and Talmud, etc, it's ALL there you just need to know where to look/have a good teacher to help. Oh man I love this stuff.

Aside from all the teaching I was part of the program team, and it was so fun to work with all the other major teachers and bounce ideas off them. I kinda wanna go back to camp. I guess not only campers get camp sick :-)

(editors note: the following is a rant about prayer, just so you know haha)
While things were great at Kutz one aspect I struggled with were the services. Are we surprised? hah. It became kind of a joke in my major about my dislike of certain ways of doing things in services. Here is what I realized, while I don't love reform services (as I've said many times) I can have a meaninful prayer experience in a Reform setting if it follows certain criteria. There are some great melodies the Reform movement uses during services that I really enjoy and I am happy to sing. What gets me pissed is when prayers are skipped without any mention or acknowledgment of their (1000+ years of) existence. I like to pray completely in Hebrew and there are many of those great Reform melodies that are completely in Hebrew. I think when people put too much English in services it is taking away from them. Yes I understand the use of English in services to make them more accessible, but in my ideal world this wouldn't be necessary. I also dislike the use of "themes" during services. I think using lots of readings in between prayers that don't really connect or deepen the understanding of those prayers are just taking away from the service. I would always say that the service/the prayers should be the theme of the service. The service is not about how much you love camp, or how awesome nature is, it is about the prayers. I think in the reform movement we need to give the prayers more credit. I don't think we need all these gimmicks and readings and power points to get people to connect to prayer, I think with the right amount of effort we can have people connecting to prayer. Of course not everyone will connect to prayer, but lets give them a chance before putting all of these distractions in front of them.

Whoo, what would my blog entry be without a rant. I'm sure people will disagree with me, but oyyy themes during the service drive me nuts (along with other things). Also if people skip prayers because the service is getting too long, why don't you just cut down on the many english readings/english songs that add time to the service instead of cutting out a prayer that is a part of our tradition and has been so for at least a 1000 years.

So I'm gonig to wrap up now. In summary: Kutz was awesome, and I get fired up when talking about prayer. The end.

Stay tuned for my road trip updates, woot.


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