“There is no other day like it at camp.” “There is no other feeling like it at camp.” “We celebrate it like no other place.” “I just feel totally myself.” These statements from campers provide just a glimpse into what makes Shabbat so special at Yavneh.
Often prospective parents have many questions about what happens on Shabbat at Yavneh. Being a Klal Yisrael camp that celebrates Jewish diversity, the questions span the spectrum of observance. I’m not going to try to explain everything that we do at camp on Shabbat because it would take pages to fully articulate; instead, I want to take you on a journey of the feeling that Shabbat creates for our community. It is a special one that is hard to replicate in other environments. It is one that has been carefully crafted over 73 summers and yet is still a work in progress.
I like to describe Shabbat to new members of our community as utopia for 25+ hours. The gates around camp literally and figuratively close to the outside world. Our traditions at Yavneh run deep – some have stood the test of 73 summers and some are much newer. The one that stands out most for many is the fact that we gather as a kahal (community) from all different backgrounds to celebrate a traditional Shabbat.
When talking to chanichim (campers) and madrichim (counselors), there is no one answer that describes their feelings towards a Yavneh Shabbat. Whether it is singing their hearts out at ReleSh (Ruach Lefnei Shabbat – a rousing song session before we light candles), listening to a Shabbat story by an adult, smelling the intoxicating aroma of challah and soup coming from the chadar ochel (dining hall), connecting with a specific tefillah (prayer), or taking in the magic of Havdalah, a Yavneh Shabbat signifies so much to many who have attended in summers past.
For all of our chanichim regardless of their home life, Shabbat symbolizes a time to connect meaningfully with their peers. We don’t have regular programming. And the day isn’t as scheduled. Activities center around the freedom that we all crave once a week. Age appropriate recreation is available for those that want it. Sitting in your bunk and reading a book is also for the order of the day. We re-energize for the frenetic pace of camp and get ready for another week of life at Yavneh.
Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “The Jewish contribution to the idea of love is the conception of love of the Sabbath, the love of a day, of spirit in the form of time.” At Yavneh, that love abounds from all sectors of our community. Our children this summer are in for another spectacular experience with the weekly capstone being Shabbat. How lucky are they.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any other staff member with specific questions about Shabbat at Yavneh.