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The Magic of Shabbat at Camp Laurelwood

By Rabbi James Greene

Shabbat is a special time at Camp Laurelwood in Madison. It is where the magic of camp comes to life, and where we celebrate the uniqueness of our community.

Shabbat is also a welcome opportunity to take a breath. The weeks at camp are full of non-stop fun and activity, as our campers spend their days connecting, exploring, and inspiring. As we head into Friday night, there is the push and pull of excitement and energy.

The ruach (spirit) of camp is most alive for me on Friday nights. At once, camp is buzzing with excitement for Friday night Shabbat services, dinner, and song session while at the same time looking forward to sleeping in and a late breakfast on Saturday morning!

This summer, there are new traditions being made, old traditions continuing, and new generations of campers who are coming to see Laurelwood as their home.

Last week, when we gathered for our first Shabbat back at camp, it felt like the weight of the longest journey lifted. Our community is back home after 22 months, and the traditions of our 84-year history are continuing.

This summer, we are also celebrating the arrival of a new Torah scroll on camp. This Torah, which came to us from the Jewish Foundation and Jewish Federation of Greater New Haven, is just another reminder of the power of our community.

Together with our counselors and Cornerstone fellows (third year Laurelwood counselors selected to receive additional training through a program run by Foundation for Jewish Camp. This year, part of their project is to expand and improve our Shabbat service experiences), we rolled out the Torah over our campers as a reminder of the ways in which they are the inheritors of this beautiful camp that has been lovingly cared throughout the generations. This means that we had campers sit down so the Torah rested on their legs and we literally rolled the Torah out over them. This ritual allowed campers to take note of so the unique features of the Torah. We then talked about their own uniqueness, and how each of them makes camp a more special community, just as the crowns on the letters and the markings of the scroll make this Torah special.

Visitors are typically a regular part of Shabbat at camp. Alumni, community members, and other stakeholders often return to camp for services, dinner, and song session on Friday nights. It is something that our entire community looks forward to every year. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible this year, and so we made a video to give you a small taste of the joy, the excitement, and the energy of Shabbat at camp.

In years to come, we hope that you will come back and join us on Friday nights for homemade challah fresh from our kitchen, matzah ball soup and roasted chicken. We can’t wait to see you wearing white on our Shabbat walk, or singing your heart out at song session.

Until then, we are sending you love, Shabbat-o-grams, and songs from Camp Laurelwood!

Rabbi Green is director of Camp Laurelwood, Connecticut’s only Jewish overnight camp, located in Madison.

PHOTO: Camp Laurelwood Torah

CAP:  This year we celebrated the arrival of a Torah scroll, which we “rolled out” over campers, allowing them to take note of its unique features.

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