This Tisha B’Av, You Can Sit With Us
At FJC, we face an annual challenge: we’re chugging along, enjoying the awesome sun-soaked experience of Jewish camp, when suddenly – it’s Tisha B’Av, and we have to stop and write a blog post about the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Tisha B’Av commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples, the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, the Crusades, and other traumas from our history. It’s a day for acknowledging the consequences of baseless hate, injustice, and intolerance. This somber time offers a unique opportunity for reflection – not just on what we’ve lost in our past, but on how we can create a more loving, just, and accepting world in the future. There’s perhaps no better training ground for creating a better world than Jewish camp.
In the Talmud, we learn that the Second Temple was destroyed “Because during the time it stood, sinat chinam, baseless hatred, prevailed” (Yoma 9b). The unjustified rejection of the “other” is a familiar theme throughout Jewish history, and our youth experience it all to often as well during the school year. Remember that early scene in the movie “Mean Girls,” in which Lindsay Lohan’s character is given a tour of the cafeteria and warned that every social group has their set place in the high school hierarchy? Whenever we limit ourselves socially due to arbitrary boundaries, we not only reject people who we perceive as different, but risk rejecting the parts of ourselves that don’t conform to our sense of identity.
At camp, we have an exciting and pivotal opportunity to break free from these arbitrary boundaries. Removed from the entrenched social order of school, camp provides a community for meaningful interaction. This accounts for the lifelong friendships that often form at camp; people get to know each other not as mathletes or choir kids or any other limiting label, but as actual complex human beings. For many campers, attending camp is the first experiential understanding that the world is indeed bigger than the social order at school, and that the way things are isn’t necessarily the way things have to be.
Camp also offers us a chance to step outside our comfort zones and embrace new parts of ourselves. A self-described athlete may discover she loves performing in the camp musical, or a habitually timid artist may fearlessly conquer the ropes course. By attending camp, we grow beyond our perceived social “role”, engage in new experiences we might never have otherwise tried, and develop greater confidence in ourselves. By recognizing that we can’t be reduced to a label, we gain a better understanding of the full humanity of others as well – a lesson that stays with us long after summer has ended.
During Tisha B’Av, we contemplate tragedies borne of baseless hatred. Jewish camp creates an environment for sharing limitless acceptance and love – both for the “other” and for ourselves. Camp models how the world could and should be, inspiring us to build a more loving future.