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Shabbat’s Warm Embrace

Friday evening has always been the most magical experience for me at Camp Ramah in New England. The whole camp convenes in a beautiful grove surrounded by towering trees, and everyone greets each other dressed in their celebratory clothing. The evening begins with performances of songs and dances by the different age groups and is followed by Shabbat blessings, tefillah, and other camp traditions. As my Nivonim summer (my last as a camper) came to an end, I never thought I’d ever encounter such special Shabbat traditions anywhere else.

Nevertheless, when I arrived at Camp Ramah Yachad last week, I had hopeful expectations for the upcoming Shabbat. Friday evening, all the campers and staff gathered in courtyard with a 360-degree view of the picturesque Carpathian Mountains. To my surprise, I encountered the familiar experience of each age group, or edah, getting up on stage and performing songs and dances for Shabbat. Then the campers helped their counselors light candles, and the whole camp recited the bracha to bring in Shabbat just as the sun began to set. It felt like home.

In that moment, I felt arms embracing me in a warm hug, and I looked down to find my camper smiling up and saying “Shabbat Shalom” in her perfect, yet heavily Russian-accented Hebrew. Pleasantly surprised, I looked around, and saw everyone embracing and wishing one another a “Shabbat Shalom.” I received hug after hug from my campers, followed by hugs from my co-counselors, and then hugs from other people— some whom I knew, and many whom I didn’t. It didn’t matter who you were, the whole community embraced one another in preparation for Shabbat. Finally, I hugged my American Ramah friends. All in all, we spent 15 minutes greeting one another as we welcomed Shabbat.

This struck me as such a strong example of community and love—ideas very familiar to me from my own camp experiences, but now displayed in a new setting. I felt truly welcome. The language barrier disappeared and I found my place in this community that felt so foreign to me only a few days ago. To my delight, the combination of old and new Shabbat traditions created an exceptional experience that built bridges between communities across the world.

Liat Shapiro, 17, is a rising senior at Meitarim High School in Ra’anana, Israel. She has spent five summers at Camp Ramah in New England and loves to read, work out, and volunteer with children.

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1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth (Grammy) Shapiro

     /  August 1, 2017

    How lovely you account is. We love you and miss you.
    Grammy and Poppa


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