It has been one week since Machaneh Kadimah 5771 and my cognitive functions are slowly returning to a sufficient level where I can now start processing the two-week summer camp. What was good, what do we need to improve on, and how is it that someone can leave behind a single shoe? As I take up a senior leadership role within LJY-Netzer, I want to express why I think our youth movement and in particular Machaneh Kadimah is integral to Liberal Judaism and why we should encourage more of our community to get involved, spread the word and send their children on LJY-Netzer’s year wide activities.
To begin with, I’ve a challenge for any parents unsure about the value of Machaneh Kadimah. First, find a child who was lucky enough to attend camp this year and ask them if they had a good time; I’ll admit it; I already know their answer. Then ask them what they have learnt. “We learnt about how to make a good community, about the books of the Torah, how to say birkat hamazon (grace after meals), we learnt about the refugees in Israel, oh, and loads of Jewish songs!” This was just one participant’s response. Now give the child back from wherever you got them from. The point I am trying to make is that Machaneh Kadimah is not just a two-week adventure camp that happens to be run by Jews. It is a unique and fun learning environment that is completely guided by our Liberal Jewish beliefs and ethics.
I want to highlight one main event from Machaneh Kadimah this year, a mifgash (encounter) between our fifteen-year-old campers and a group of Arab-Israeli teenagers from Nachaf, a village in the north of Israel. The whole day was dedicated to getting to know each other, talking about our similarities and differences. Next year our fifteen year olds will go on Israel tour and meet the same group in their hometown; this was not a one-off event, more the beginning of an ongoing relationship. Our fifteen year olds voluntarily suggested that they should move their dinnertime until after sunset so they could eat with our guests, as it was Ramadan. We don’t just want to instill our members with liberal Jewish values; we want to show them how to live those values.
I’d like to take this oppertunity to thank our commendable madrachim and roshim. This is the same group of people who regularly volunteer their summer to making sure that there is youth provision for our movement, and that it is inspiring, empowering and informed. Why do these leaders give up there time to do this? Well the short answer is that they were lucky enough to go on LJY-Netzer when they were younger and want to share their belief that Liberal Judaism is meaningful, dynamic and relevant today.