Reflections on Segel experience at OSRUI 2017: Missing the Magic of OSRUI

There are things that  happen at OSRUI that wouldn’t happen anywhere else.

Like this past Monday, when we not only read Torah in the tradition of ancient marketplace readings, but the madrichim (counselors) actually created a morning marketplace for students to “shop” for bananas, pancakes and caricatures amidst the cacophony of a drum circle, strolling musicians and a lot of extra noise. As Tiferet middle school arts campers settled into their breakfast on the floor in the middle of various booths, a chant of “Ki Mitzion Teitzei Torah!” (from Zion comes the Torah) began to take over the room as the Torah was brought out and read in midair by my co-segel (faculty) Rabbi Cosnowsky…holding a banana?

Sitting around in the lodge with other segel members one day, a conversation started about how to explain the evolution of Jewish prayer and music through the ages to my colleagues’ young Kallah campers. I started to list all the various tunes I love for Mi Chamocha. So Wednesday morning I found myself leading a whirlwind singalong of 9 musical interpretations of Mi Chamocha in 15 minutes – from Miriam’s Song to Redemption Song, including classics and newbies, not to mention the original Torah trope chanted by my HUC classmate Rabbi Jill Crimmings.

Thursday afternoon I began a tfilah (prayer) planning session with a group of my Tiferet girls who came in excited about an idea – they wanted to create a Shabbat Shirah-style frenzied song session, emulating their beloved OSRUI songleaders – not to mention retiring Camp Director Jerry Kaye, by telling one of his classic Shabbat stories to the tune of his traditional storytelling niggun (tune without words). They chose the story of the difference between heaven and hell, in which both places feature overflowing banquet tables but guests with no elbows. (In heaven, they feed each other.) I loved how excited they were to carry on their camp traditions.

As our second Shabbat approached, I started to become saddened to leave this place where every day held new unexpected treasures. I shared this with Rena, one of the Tiferet madrichim (and orchestrator of the market day experience) about this, who shared a favorite teaching with me: Rabbi Meir held legendary Shabbat dinners, and a guest expressed sorrow upon departure. “If I were you,” the rabbi said, “I would be ecstatic to leave, to go and share what you’ve learned here in your own community.”

I’ll miss my days of walking around camp in early morning silence heading to lead tfilah or late evenings after staff meetings. I’ll miss hanging out with my family by the lake on Shabbat, and in hammocks during menucha (rest time). I’ll miss the late night segel chats about Jewish education, old camp stories and new camp memories. I’ll miss madrichim giving creative prompts before each meal (create a haiku about pancakes) to earn the chance to line up. I’ll miss the amazing creativity of the tiferet campers.

But I’m excited to return to my community, Temple Sholom of Chicago, and share the magic of camp with our students and families. I’m excited to share the new things I’ve learned and the ideas that have inspired me with our staff. I’m excited to bring that spirit of true Shabbat rest back with my family to our home. 

On Sunday morning at my final tfilah before leaving camp, as the tiferet girls led their song session and sang the words I had included in a medley just days before, “We’ve just lived through a miracle,” I thought to myself, “yes we have!” Lihitraot OSRUI – see you soon.