In Jewish life we constantly pray for and work for Shalom. While Shalom is used to say “hello” “goodbye ” and “peace”, it means wholeness, harmony and peace- that all of the parts of the system are working together in balance becoming a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
We teach about and do acts of Tikkun Olam, repairing the brokenness we see around us.
These are two key values in any moment of Jewish life and are especially present in life at summer camp. How amazing it was to witness and participate in an act of Tikkun Olam that was full of Shalom. Over the course of 48 hours different units jumped into a variety of tasks with Ruach and Koach (spirit and strength) to make an impression on the world.
Long before camp, Beth makes arrangements. Working with Repair the World Atlanta, Beth organized a mitzvah project to benefit Solidarity Sandy Springs. On Yom Kef, day of fun, two huge pallets of school supplies arrived at Camp, delivered to the Elisheva, perched on the side of the mountain. That morning, as members of the faculty pulled away plastic, campers assembled. While staff gave some direction, it was the campers, looking for ways to help and tasks that needed to be done, that created human chains to move all of the supplies. As the adults lifted boxes from the stack, campers carried them up into the Elisheva. Campers passed boxes, one to the other, loading tables. Before we could look, boxes were unloaded and campers were breaking down boxes and saving plastic for recycling. While the activity was chaotic, the space wasn’t. These campers took care of the supplies, of the waste and the space. Then, they walked away, heading with a sense of accomplishment, off to their next fun activity. As hard as they worked, even with the task just starting, they knew they had done their part and made way for the next unit.
As the next unit arrived they did not see the labor of unpacking but they saw the results. They wanted to do their part in the effort. Moving in teams, they loaded the school supplies piece by piece. Teams made sure each backpack was loaded correctly and made joyful notes to wish recipients well in the new school year. They made it fun. In less than an hour, picking up from the unit before, these campers packed 180 backpacks for high school students. Each camper, each unit, doing a piece, they all witnessed this whole huge task coming together.
After snack, knowing younger campers were coming, older campers repeated the performance from the morning. Group after group, stepped up, adding 150 middle school backpacks and cleaning away packaging for recycling.
The piles of backpacks did not just magically disappear. A call went out the next day to carry packs uphill from Elisheva to waiting van. A few faculty and staff arrived. As we toiled in the Georgia heat, a group of campers arrived. They saw us and jumped into action, no directions were given, no questions asked. They just started helping. Moving that incredible mass of supplies so they could get to Atlanta and the students who needed them.
We teach and talk about Tikkun Olam and Shalom constantly. On this Yom Kef – a Day of Fun – campers, across the space of the Elisheva and the course of 2 days, turned hard work into a joyful act. Each group did a part. We sent off school supplies going to students in need now surrounded with the energy of this act. Campers and staff have this glimpse and experience of Tikkun Olam building Shalom to empower and inspire them.
– Rabbi Michael Birnholz