Twenty Minutes of Summer Day Camp Magic
(Pictured) The migrash (field) at Camp Ramah Nyack, a K-8 Jewish Day Camp in Rockland County New York
All it takes is twenty minutes on Friday afternoon. Twenty fantastic minutes. Twenty minutes that my mind and soul yearn for and my body aches for all year long. For twenty minutes my neshama (soul) feels complete, as the physical motions of my body are overtaken by the intense and deep emotions of my heart.
3:20 I gaze out over a barren migrash (field). An empty field once filled with beautiful green grass has since taken on the appearance of a well-used football field. The faint smell of fragrant grass is still a presence, but the everyday enjoyment of the field by 2,000+ little feet has caused some of that grass to disappear. Similar to that favorite book we love and then love some more, it is a little beaten-up and shows signs of the love, wear and tear.
3:25 Chanichim (campers) and Chevrei tzevet (staff members) begin flooding the once open space as the brilliant rays of the summer sun shine down upon our heads. Minutes later over 1,000 people are united. An infrared-heat sensitive camera would capture a spectacular picture at this moment. The periphery of the field would be cool, while the epicenter of the migrash would show an explosion of warmth and excitement. The sound of Israeli music radiates over the speakers and the masses begin to dance. Celebrations abound, smiles all around. People are happy to be dancing, ecstatic to be b’yachad (together), thankful to be alive. All of my hard work is paying off. I watch with pride in my heart and tears in my eyes. I too join in the festivities, matching my movements, motion for motion with my kehillah kedosha (holy community).
3:35 Silence. Attention. Face the flags. Proud Jews and proud Americans. Our flags are lowered behind the hum of 1,000 collected voices singing Hatikvah linked as one. Swiftly and without interruption we transition into our final dance of the week. Amen. We dance our hearts out. I am overcome by emotion and hodu lashem (thanks to God).
3:40 Shabbat Shalom. We say goodbye…until next week. As quickly as it all began the chanichim depart after hugs galore, the madrichim go on their way and the migrash is left empty as but a memory of an earlier, heated moment in time.
It may not be a long time, in fact it always passes by too quickly for me. These twenty minutes on my makom kadosh (holy space) each Friday of the summer — surrounded by my campers, peers and teachers — feed my soul and sustain my dreams through the years. Twenty minutes inspire my faith, my work, and my life. Twenty minutes is all it takes.
Rabbi Ami Hersh, a Wexner Graduate Fellowship Alumnus, Class 19, is the assistant director of Camp Ramah Nyack and is also the program director of the National Ramah Commission. In addition to his work at Ramah, Ami is the Jewish Family Life Coordinator at the Orangetown Jewish Center. Ami was ordained at The Jewish Theological Seminary in May 2012 with an M.A. in Jewish non-profit management and received a second M.A. in Israel Education from the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education. Ami is excited to be co-chairing the Wexner Graduate Fellowship Alumni Institute this coming February. He and his wife Loni Hersh live with their two sons, Micah and Zev, in Orangeburg, NY. Ami can be reached at email@example.com.