Is there a Jewish way to say, Hakuna Matata? This question struck me while I was watching the Kochavim (7th grade) production of the musical “The Lion King”. The first major theatrical production of our second session brought every animal of the Savanna out into our Beit Am (Theater Pavilion). Elephants and giraffes, zebras and rhinos standing ten feet tall, swaying and singing about the “Circle of Life.” The costumes and scenery were incredible but, as is always the case, it was our campers boldly dancing and singing (in Hebrew!) which left the greatest impression. The acting was wonderful but the joy on their faces and the expressions of accomplishment were no act.
In addition to the play, last was a big week for field-trips. Gesher (11th grade) returned from their 10-day road trip and we are thrilled to have them back. Nivonim (10th grade) spend three days in Alabama learning about the history of the civil rights movement and grappling with contemporary social justice issues. Nachshonim (9th grade) was up in North Carolina riding mountain bikes and paddling on the French Broad River. And Shoafim (8th grade) camped out overnight at nearby Unicoi State Park.
Friday was Yom Yisrael (Israel Day) at Camp and an opportunity to celebrate 70+ years of innovation in Israel. Our delegation of Israeli staff members led our campers through a special day-long program which highlighted everything from the rebirth of spoken Hebrew language to the latest technological advances coming out of Israel. These interactive educational experiences coupled with personal relationships with our Israeli counselors help our kids develop a connection to the People, the Land, and the Modern State of Israel.
This Shabbat we hosted the Gesher from Camp Ramah in the Poconos as well as the Ramah Darom Board of Directors. We love having guests and feel privileged to be able to teach our campers about the mitzvah of hospitality in our unique setting. (You can’t really teach Hachnasat Orchim or Shabbat for that matter in a classroom.)
It is the end of the third week of the session and the dancing in Camp is getting quite impressive. Energetic dancing to Israeli music, which is a big part of our Camp culture, could be viewed as part of our approach to Israeli education or celebration of Shabbat – which it is. But it is also linked to the nurturing environment of Camp: when children feel unconditional love, they can access uninhibited expressions of joy. I began by considering whether Hakuna Matata was a Jewish idea. The care-free lifestyle of “No Worries,” promoted by Timon and Pumba in “The Lion King” is not consistent with our tradition. As Jews, we do worry. We care. We are intentional. We feel responsible to look out for others and heal the world. And yet, when embraced by our sacred Camp community, kids here do feel “No Worries.” They are in a non-judgmental space and are encouraged to be their best selves. We don’t give them a “problem-free philosophy” or a pithy motto to guide their life. We embrace them and give them a platform of confidence on which to build a life of responsibility and service.