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Choose Your Own Prayer Adventure

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Learning American Sign Language with Larry

by Rabbi Ellen Nemhauser, Faculty

One of the many highlights at Camp Coleman is the incredibly creative way in which we approach prayer – both personal and communal. Thursday night’s schedule included an array of prayer experiences spread throughout Camp Coleman offered by faculty members and staff. Campers could choose one of 12 formats and locations in which to participate in a creative worship experience (we call this T’fillahpalooza).

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Creating a chain of ancestors (also dressed in gaga for gaga night attire)

In the newly improved Strauss Chapel, one of the outdoor prayer spaces, I offered a “Choose your Own Prayer Adventure.” Campers and counselors explored the meaning of the prayers and responded to the challenge of creating a representation of that prayer in a fresh way. Some campers learned how to sign the Shema in American Sign Language; others learned a midrash (story) to explain the crossing of the Red Sea to freedom’s shore; some created a chain of Jewish ancestors spanning from Abraham and Sarah through their own great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and themselves; another small group of campers built a shelter under which they led the Hashkiveinu prayer; campers circled the world with their hand print suggestions for how they can help fix the earth; and another small group composed additional lyrics to a song for the conclusion of the silent prayer.  Special thanks to Larry Schwartz, one of our camp drivers, who is an American Sign Language teacher during the school year and was willing to assist us in this elective. I know that I learned a lot listening to ideas and watching the campers and staff responding to the Adventure challenges.