Mar 07, 2019

Posted by: Emily Reilly

Notes from Noah: Shabbat Shalom

Among the most interesting statistics gleaned from our 2018 survey was that 33% of our campers come from a home with one parent that does not identify as Jewish. This is the third highest percentage of interfaith families among the 73 residential Jewish camps participating in the survey. From my perspective, this is an extremely encouraging figure. It tells me that we are succeeding in creating an inclusive Jewish community.

How are we able to do this so well, and what does it look like?

Ranch Camp is not affiliated with a single denomination of Judaism. We have families from across a wide spectrum of observance. We keep a Kosher kitchen. We are not obligated to use a Sidur (prayer book) produced by the Reform or Conservative movements. Our Sidur is the Ranch Camp Sidur. It is constantly evolving to include songs and prayers that have become meaningful to our community as we experiment with new elements. This makes for Shabbat services that are participatory, engaging, and enjoyable for every participant, regardless of their background or familiarity.

Over the course of Summer 2018, we went through a process of turning over the majority of our service to our campers to lead. Campers brought elements from their families and communities. They shared personal stories that added dimension and reflection. I knew we had come to an important part in this evolution when campers began inviting staff members to the bimah. Anyone who attended a Kabbalat Shabbat during our third session will tell you that the experience was truly meaningful. I have described it as “transcendent,” and among the most significant Jewish experiences I have ever had with my family.

Campers are drawn to Ranch Camp because we have a great site, great programs, and a strong reputation. They might come for the horses, or the pool, or to accompany a friend or sibling or cousin. When they return home, and they are asked about their favorite things at camp, they are more than likely to include “Shabbat,” because Ranch Camp Shabbat is unique, special, and it belongs to each one of them, regardless of their background.

Shabbat Shalom, Ranch Camp.