The High Holidays always bring me back to when I was a little girl going to temple with my family. I absolutely dreaded having to sit through services. I found them long and frustrating, and I could never understand what any of it had to do with me. I went purely out of obligation. I think the only time I felt like I was really a part of things was at my own Bat Mitzvah.
This all changed when I went to college and attended my first Hillel Shabbat. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t intimidated by the rabbi; in fact, I adored him. He was funny and honest and spoke from the heart about things that mattered to me and my friends. My first High Holiday services there forever altered my Jewish identity. I wasn’t going because I had to; if I’d spent the morning playing Tetris in my dorm room, my parents would’ve been none the wiser. I was going because I wanted to be there with my friends, singing, listening, praying, reflecting. I had found my people. My community.
When I sat in Rosh Hashanah services last week, I’ll admit I found myself slightly distracted. The service was lovely; we have an incredibly passionate team of rabbis and cantors at our synagogue, and they never disappoint. But when I looked over at my kids, all dressed up in their suits and ties, I felt a little sad. Here we were, in this exquisite sanctuary with our family and fellow congregants… many of whom are our good friends… but there was a problem.
It wasn’t The Grove.
The Grove is where Bauercrest holds Shabbat services every Friday night and Saturday morning. It’s tucked away just south of the lower fields and just north of the lake. In The Grove you’ll find collared shirts and covered heads, but the only suit you’ll ever see is a bathingsuit when a Soph B doesn’t leave himself enough time to change out of it after G-Swim.
The Grove is where my husband, who never attended a day of Hebrew School in his life, learned all the prayers by heart. It’s where my sons, who tend to negotiate and fidget their way through services at our synagogue, rush to get a seat in the front row so they might be called up for a reading. It’s where boys of all ages sing and listen and pray and reflect. These are their people. This is their community.
The Grove is undeniably my favorite place at camp. It is truly a gift to be able to witness campers and staff coming together in such a meaningful way week after week. The summer before I came to Bauercrest, someone sent me a photo of some counselors and older campers at the bimah. I thought it was sweet, but I couldn’t figure out why it was sent to me. Then I looked more closely, and I saw a prayer book propped up by little hands, and behind it, a baseball hat. It was Jaden. They had invited him up to be a part of this tradition that generations of Bauercrest boys had been a part of for decades. A tradition that the Jewish people had been a part of for centuries. He was seven.
Tonight I will have dinner with my family, then head off to Kol Nidre services with friends. Tomorrow morning we will go to Yom Kippur services as a family. There will be negotiating and fidgeting and frequent requests for bathroom breaks. I will have to be okay with it, because this is who our family is at this moment in time. It won’t last forever. And as I look around, I’ll take comfort in knowing that we’re in very good company.
As these Days of Awe come to a close, I just want to say how fortunate I feel to be a part of so many wonderful things; the Bauercrest family is certainly at the top of this list. Regardless of the extent to which you’ll celebrate, I do hope you are able to spend this weekend with those you love… your people… in a way that’s meaningful to all of you.