Summer is a great time for immersive Jewish experiences. As I am writing this some of our congregants are on their return flight from Israel and others are immersed in the exuberant village culture of Jewish Summer camp. Positive immersive Jewish experiences are essential to our survival as Jews in the exile.
My own daughter Sophie is having her first Jewish Summer Camp experience right now at Eden Village (an organic Jewish farm camp). During our tour, Sophie noticed that a hen was loose and walked over and snatched the hen up just a few feet away from a swarming bee hive! “The Chicken Rabbi” was kvelling… But the main reason I smile when I think of her is that now she will know how it feels to live and practice Judaism in a village-like setting.
The challenge with these experiences is that they end too soon and then we return to our mostly fragmented Jewish life. Mordechai Kaplan (among others) noted that the Jewish people have thrived in the exile largely because we were forced to live in close-knit communities. Perhaps this is one of the factors why Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods have grown in recent decades while Reform and Conservative have shrunken significantly. Orthodox Jews often live in the same neighborhoods so that they can experience Shabbat together without driving.
If we want to grow and strengthen our own community we need to meet more often on Shabbat and engage in mitzvoth together. We might also try an immersive experience together in Israel or a Shabbaton weekend at Camp JORI. May the Holy One bless us that we will get together more often this year.
Kayitz Tov! Have a Good Summer!