Summer camps look for Jewish angle in planning July 4 celebrations
|Fourth of July 2011 at Camp Ramah in the Berkshires in Wingdale, New York.|
While many people will celebrate the Fourth of July with fireworks and barbecues, many of the Jewish summer camps where area families send their children are looking for more creative, and Jewish, ways to mark the day.
At Camp Ramah in the Berkshires, housed in Wingdale, N.Y., “One of our traditions is to have a camp-wide live concert,” its associate director, Rabbi Amy Roth, said.
This year, Ramah-Berkshires, affiliated with the Conservative movement, is the summer home for about 570 youngsters.
On July 4th, Ramah will welcome back the Brian Gelfand Group, Roth said. She pointed out that the band blends modern musical styles with traditional Jewish themes, frequently concentrating on the relationships between the communal and the traditional — issues that often surface in American Jewish life.
Also, she said, “they know our camp repertoire, so they’ll play a variety of modern Israeli songs together with Americana. One of our big traditions is for the entire camp to sing along as the musicians play ‘American Pie.’”
The camp dining room will be decked out in red, white, and blue streamers, Roth said, and the day’s menu for the day will include tricolored ice pops.
“We’ll have an all-American dinner, with fried chicken and apple pie,” she added, and “a lot of kids will wear red, white, and blue.”
Alan Silverman, director of the religious Zionist Camp Moshava in Honesdale, Pa., said that while the camp does not plan special activities for July 4th, “We basically acknowledge the wonderful experience Jews are presently having in America.”
Silverman said that on Wednesday morning, during the time set aside for announcements, “We’ll talk about the day and mention the fact that, currently, life for Jews has been special in America. One of the most important things in the Jewish religion is hakarat hatov, recognizing the good. We should recognize when good things happen and be grateful for it.”
Helene Drobenare, director of Young Judaea’s Sprout Lake Camp in Verbank, N.Y., said the camp will do two things on July 4th.
First, she said, “We’ll celebrate the independence of the United States and have a barbecue and American sing-along,” stressing the ideas of freedom and heroism.
In addition, the camp will commemorate the anniversary of the raid on Entebbe, a hostage-rescue mission carried out by the Israel Defense Forces at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976.
“We’ll talk about the heroism of the Jewish people,” she said, adding that programming would include “reenactments of different scenarios.”
Campers will also learn about Yonatan Netanyahu “and the importance of the event to Israel and to all of us.”
More on: Go fourth!
Celebrating the covenant by which it stands
In mid-spring, usually some time in May, we Jews celebrate the mystical marriage of God and Israel at Shavuot, as concretized by the tablets of the Law that Moshe carried down from Sinai. Of course, we’re Jews! We eat! We celebrate with food, huge lashings of dairy, rich creams and extravagant displays of cheeses and cakes, and the heavenly cheesecake that is the fruit of their union. We celebrate with the soft white foods of springtime. We stay up all night to study, which is a traditional Jewish form of revelry.
In early summer, we Americans celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the document over which Jefferson, Adams, and the other founding fathers agonized as they gave birth to this new nation. Of course, we’re Americans! We eat! We celebrate with food, barbecues, hot dogs, and hamburgers. We stay up well into the night to watch the fireworks bursting in air, making the dark sky bloom and blossom and explode with color.
Jonathan Sarna talks about American Jews, then and now
It was the dawning of a messianic era.
So it seemed to the earliest Jews to establish synagogues in the new settlements of North America. That’s according to Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, author of the award-winning American Judaism: A History, and chief historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
“It’s not an accident that all the synagogue names are messianic terms,” he said, pointing to Shearith Israel — founded 1655 in New York, and literally meaning the remnant of Israel; Jeshuat Israel — founded in 1658 in Newport, Rhode Island, meaning the salvation of Israel (later renamed the Touro Synagogue); and Mikveh Israel, meaning the hope of Israel, the name of synagogues founded in the 18th century in Savannah, Georgia, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.