What Camp Means To Me…
By Masorti Judaism
By Joel Fenster, Dan Eisenberg, Sara Bloch and Lily Stein
As the start of Noam summer camp approaches, some of our Noam movement workers talk about what camp means to them, with an introduction from Mazkir Joel Fenster.
“Noam camp is undoubtedly the highlight of our year – when hundreds of our leaders and participants come together to build a unique community. It is this shared purpose that drives every activity on machaneh (camp); from the first evening spent in small groups, to a Friday night service for all year groups together, we build a sense of togetherness that can be transformational.
“This is the central theme of the extracts below, looking at the transformative role camp plays in the lives of hundreds of young people every year. Our camps cater for ages from year five to year 12, with programming tailored to suit the needs of each group. What’s constant across all years is that camp is a stretching experience, allowing every participant to ask the big questions and learn that their voice is worth being heard. Perhaps most importantly of all, camp is a fun and social place, creating friendships that last far beyond the summer.”
Joel Fenster is the Mazkir of Noam, the Masorti youth movement. He is a member of Kol Nefesh Masorti, and next year will begin legal training.
“I first went on Noam summer camp at the age of 11, without any knowledge of Masorti Judaism. I had not enjoyed going to my United Synagogue cheder. Judaism felt like something you did on a Friday night and the festivals, always with your family, and nothing more. My experiences on Noam, however, opened me up to a new landscape of friends, community and learning. I discovered on Noam the joy of being part of a group outside of school.
“The care and support of my madrichim and roshim (leaders) allowed me to overcome any minor challenges I faced. I looked up to my leaders for guidance on both emotional and intellectual issues. They challenged my naivety and encouraged me to travel my own path. I made friendships which are deep and enduring. I nurtured a growing fascination with the state of Israel that allowed me to grapple with its hopes and challenges. I found that prayer can be both full of joy and deeply moving. I learned that Judaism as expressed by the Masorti community is full of debate, kindness and commitment. Thanks to Noam, I am inspired to lead a full Jewish life and cultivate meaningful experiences for the next generation.”
Dan Eisenberg is a Noam Movement Worker. He studied in the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem in 2014.
“Since the age of 10 I have spent every summer as part of the Noam community on Noam Summer Camp. During my years as a chanicha (child), camp was primarily about forming close bonds with my peers, and exploring my Jewish identity beyond the home and school. In more recent years, Noam Summer Camp has given me the opportunity to push myself to reach my potential, explore my relationship with nature, and to experience group living. The term ‘dugma ishit’ (personal model) is a phrase that is often used by our members and is at the heart of the Noam lexicon.
“In the world of Noam this phrase highlights the importance of modelling behaviours that we would like to see in our fellow madrichim and chanichim (children). This leadership structure, which asks its madrichim to act as the ultimate role model, is vital to the work that Noam does and has given me a wide network of people who I can look up to and learn from. I have been inspired by many Noam members to think deeply and critically about my identity and my responsibility to the world around me.
“Noam Masorti, like other youth movements, is counter-cultural. They encourage us to think ideologically, measure success beyond marks and grades, and help us to see not only how we can express our individualities, but how we can simultaneously be part of something bigger than ourselves. At the end of my year of movement work I will be leaving with a profound sense of the importance of community and responsibility to wider society. “
Sara Bloch is currently Marom Student Community Organiser and a Noam Movement Worker and will be going to San Francisco in September to take part in the Adamah Fellowship.
“Aged 11, I wandered into the Noam bubble by chance. I attended a Jewish primary school and a friend of mine bribed me to join her on camp by giving me half her Kit-Kat one day at lunch. Little did I know, I was about to embark on a Noam journey which would become the cornerstone of my Jewish identity.
“As an adolescent, Noam provided a space for me to grapple with issues that did not exist at school or in synagogue, especially surrounding identity. I have been able to explore different aspects of Judaism and find what fits comfortably for me, through discussing the camp rules regarding gender and kippot to leading my very own shacharit (morning service), to discussions of same-sex ceremonies. Growing up in Noam, where discussions and debates are encouraged has really helped me carve my own Jewish identity.
“I have never missed a Noam summer since the age of 11 and the later part of my Noam career has had a huge impact on my personal development. Being a madricha and a role model for others makes you accountable for all your actions and so has forced me to be the best version of myself.
“Every summer I am reminded how lucky I am to be part of this giant network of inspirational people and incredible role models. The place that Noam holds in my heart is very special, and I encourage other young people to go to camp in the hope they will get as much out of the experience as I have.”
Lily Stein is currently a Noam Movement Worker and recently spent several months travelling in South America.
For more information about Noam, please contact Tracy at firstname.lastname@example.org