Living our values in Challenging Times
Few times at camp are as peaceful and serene as havdalah. As a camp we gather in the amphitheatre, swaying together holding hands, and wishing one another a sweet week. Havdalah means separation and at camp it serves as the time to separate the last week from the next.
Many Jews base their year around Passover- it marks the beginning of spring and the separation of seasons. In fact, Nissan, the Jewish month where Passover falls is counted as the first month in the year. In many ways the end of Passover is a havdalah, or separation, and this past Saturday, just north of San Diego, families gathered at Chabad of Poway, to both celebrate Shabbat and mark the end of Passover. The peacefulness of that day was abruptly interrupted when a gunman opened fire, killing one and injuring many. Sadly, this type of attack is not new, as anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head around the world. It seems that the question is now when the next act of hatred and anti-Semitism will happen, not if and why. In recent months, there have been countless attacks on people of various faiths at times of gathering for prayer. It has been 74 years since the Holocaust ended and we have made great strives as a society and world. But some things are hard to change and unfortunately, we are living in an era where hatred and labels are more visible than acceptance and love.
So how do we as a camp start to change that? Well, the one piece we failed to mention about a Camp Chi havdalah above may be the most famous part- the ruach awards. Ever week one camper from each village receives a ruach award and helps to lead havdalah. How do you earn a ruach award? Well, ruach awards are given to campers who best exemplify the core Camp Chi values of kavod (respect), chesed (kindness) and kehillah (community). We strive to imbue these values into everything we do at camp, but there is no single way we measure which camper best embodies the values and thus gets a ruach award. In fact, it is vehemently debated each week until agreement is made amongst the staff who should receive the coveted award and the havdalah spice bag that goes with it. While this may sound silly, it is a great problem to have- needing to debate which camper in a village best displays and lives by these values.
In tragic times like this, people often send thoughts and prayers. And while we mourn with and offer all our support to the San Diego Jewish community, we want to do more. Just months ago, we Walked Against Hate after the Shabbat morning shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Now, this is our call to action- not to walk, not to run, not to protest, but to live by our values day in and day out. Respecting and being kind to people of all types will build a community and when that community is shaken by terrible events like this, it is our values that differentiate us. We cannot live in a world of fear. As urged by both the Poway and Pittsburgh communities, we must continue to show up, be present, and proudly be who we are, creating a kehillah filled with kavod and chesed. So now we ask you to go out and perform mitzvot for others; show that we are better than those who target other people, not because these are Jewish values, but these are values that transcend humanity and are values everyone should live by. And then maybe, just maybe, we can share a a ruach award together soon.