By Lisa Friedman
At Camp Harlam, we think deeply and intentionally about middot. Middah is typically used at camp to describe the character traits that shape us. However, middot (measures) are not fixed aspects of who we are. As Jewish human beings, we strive to discover the ways that we can bring our various middot into balance. In other words, it’s not that we have a specific middah or don’t, it’s not “we did it and now we are done”; but rather we are meant to understand that we are all works in progress seeking to do better every day.
This is hard work. And often we need reminders.
A doorway adorned with a mezuzah serves as a reminder to apply the values found in the Torah. In thinking about the power of reminders, we sought to create a meaningful mezuzah that campers could take home with them. Knowing Galil campers as we do, we know that one of their most important “spaces” outside of camp is on their phones. So we came up with a way to create a mezuzah that campers could use when entering their phone “space”; something to jog their memories and remind them to apply the values they use at camp.
In one of our Jewish Life programs I invited each camper in Galil to create a “Phone Mezuzah,” which they did on an index card. They wrote their phone number on the back and I took a snapshot of the card and texted it with the message: “This is your phone mezuzah. Keep it as your home or lock screen to remind you of how you are your best self at camp.” When campers go home (or in the car as they pull out of camp) and check the 236 messages (give or take) that accumulated while they were away, I hope they find this one, and that it fills them with a warm, positive memory of the powerful place they call their second home, and that it serves as a reminder to carry throughout the year.
They created a mashup of serious advice, camp values, and inside jokes. Amidst images of Jewish stars and stick figures holding hands, there were reminders of everlasting friendship and advice. Here are some samples:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
“Hey future me! I know it’s sad not living with all of your best friends anymore, but each day for the next week think of 1 thing you love about home. I love you and have the most amazing last days of summer.”
“Don’t use your phone as much. I’m serious.”
I don’t know if they will truly set the home or lock screen on their phones to these messages, but I hope that they will see the text and remember that the values and lessons they learn at camp do not have to stay at camp. We send our children to camp so they will have fun, gain independence, try new things, challenge themselves, and make friends. We do all of this in a Jewish context to build their pride, joy, and love of Judaism. And we hope they will emerge with their middot in greater balance, or at least with an awareness of how important it is to keep working on it, and with enough confidence to carry them through life, or, in the case of Galil, through 8th grade until they drive back through the gates of their summer home once again.
Lisa Friedman is an Education Director at Temple Beth-El in Hillsborough, NJ and this will be her tenth summer at Camp Harlam. Lisa and her husband Gary are the parents of two Harlamites; Shayna who will be with her Harlam friends on NFTY in Israel this summer and Mitchell who will be on staff.