Last year, while on Sabbatical, we didn’t have the chance to come to camp (Hess Kramer and Gindling Hilltop Camp) because we spent the summer in Israel. But coming back to camp this summer is a reminder as to why I love it so and why our kids do too.
When I first arrived and got settled in my room I heard a strange sound for Southern California in the summer – rain! It was just enough to get the outside chapel too wet for us to have evening services outside. I was disappointed that we were moved to Baruh Hall.
I took the time before services to go on a walk to the Menorah. For those who have never been here before, the Menorah at Hess Kramer overlooks the ocean and is appropriately named “Rabbi Alfred Wolf’s Inspiration Point.” And inspirational it truly is. There, as I stood overlooking the waves, a rainbow appeared, arching between sea and mountain. Absolutely spectacular!
I returned to Baruh Hall for services and in came over 200 campers and staff. As with any large group in a room with strong acoustics, it took a while to get them settled and ready to pray. No prayerbooks were passed out, rather, there was a screen with the prayers projected in the front of the room. Tonight, while we might not be outside we had the opportunity to experience prayer in a different way – looking up!
Services began and the camp community sang out. While I know that there is a strong level of participation in services at camp, tonight, everyone had the opportunity to truly hear how their prayers sounded. Usually, in the outside chapel, the sound dissipates into the surrounding trees and valley. But tonight, being in this enclosed space, we had the opportunity to really listen to our voices sing out in praise.
While I would not want every camp service to be inside – that’s just not camp – it was a great opportunity for the camp community to truly hear our voices.
And finally, in this space, within the walls of Baruh Hall, we were surrounded by the work of a great woman, Geri Schusterman, z’l, and the spirit of her beloved husband, Mel, z’l, who passed away this past year. Both of them dedicated years of their lives and their creative spirits to Camp Hess Kramer. Geri’s artwork is all around camp and for the most part, the colors have not faded. They tell a story of campers and a community now 60 years old. The campers and I’m sure most of the staff have no idea who created these beautiful pieces of art that adorn the camp – I wish they did. They would have loved to spend time with both Geri and Mel. But I would like to think that Geri and Mel are still here, still a part of Camp Hess Kramer, and lending their creative spirit still today.
And this was just the first day!