by Barbara Weinstein, Religious Action Center Staff

I grew up at Jewish summer camp, went to Jewish day school, and have been a Jewish community professional for a decade. And despite my lifetime immersion in Jewish life, I have spent the last three days since I arrived at OSRUI with a perpetual smile on my face, blown away by the campers’ enthusiasm, the educators’ talents, and the counselors’ commitment. OSRUI’s array of programs, and above all its joyful celebration of Judaism, the Hebrew language, and Israeli culture, have left me inspired. I’m already trying to figure out how I can come back next summer.

I came to camp from Washington, DC, where I serve as the Legislative Director for the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center. My task was to spend time with the campers and staff talking about Jewish values of social justice and tikkun olam. I prepared programs and printed materials in advance, ready to teach five days worth of lessons. Already it’s clear that I’m learning as much (more?) as I’m teaching.

At Friday evening’s Shabbat Shira, I learned new melodies to Hebrew songs I have sung for decades. At t’filot on Saturday morning, I learned that 12 and 13 year olds (boys and girls alike) can dance in their seats and sing with enthusiasm when the songleader is gifted and the atmosphere is thoughtfully created. Alongside Chalutzim on Sunday morning, I re-learned some Hebrew grammar I’d forgotten, thinking that verb conjugation was never explained quite as clearly to me in school as it was just then in the Mercaz Ivrit. (The fact that verb conjugation could be interesting at all was a marvel to me. Camp works wonders.)

I’m looking forward to whatever lessons today holds and, later this week, I’m going with Gesher to the state capital in Madison, where we’ll meet some of the legislators and talk with them about the importance of fighting hunger. 80 campers, 20 staff and me. I can’t wait to learn more.

Barbara Weinstein is the Legislative Director at the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C., and is visiting OSRUI this week talking about Social Justice with the campers and staff.