In first person

EDITOR’S NOTE: We asked our readers to submit stories about their camp and school experiences. Here are a few:

Shabbat’s beauty at Newman

jacob hirsch
special to j.

Imagine celebrating Shabbat in a beautiful hillside amphitheater. Surrounded by trees, the late, late afternoon sun reflects off the leaves laying out a beautiful, multicolored tapestry of welcome for the Sabbath Bride.

It is an amazing setting in which to usher in Shabbat. The natural beauty at Camp Newman is only enhanced by the white clothing of campers and staff. The sanctuary indeed seems to glow with God’s Divine presence. At that moment it seems as if all of creation is singing out in proclamation of God’s oneness.

Jacob Hirsch lives in San Diego.

Exploring Judaism at Tawonga

alison shapiro
special to j.

Camp was the first time I was in a predominately Jewish environment. I was comforted by the fact that everyone had something in common: Judaism. I ceased to see Judaism as something that separated me from a community; instead, I began to understand that being a Jew meant I was a part of a community.

Aside from learning about Judaism, I learned about myself. I had a particularly awkward adolescence, marked by early puberty and some poor haircut decisions, and I had an intense desire to belong and be popular at school. Over the course of my summers at camp, I came to realize that if I was simply myself, people would accept me. It worked.

Alison Shapiro lives in Orinda.

Strange cries at Camp Arazim

ruth starkman
special to j.

“Help, Help! God please … Help … Is anyone there? Pleeeease!!!”

I heard these words late one night in 1978 at Camp Arazim, the former Northern California Conservative camp. Our father had volunteered there for several summers as camp doctor, and now at 15 I and my brother Joel, 16, were too old to be campers so we became cooks in the glatt-kosher kitchen.

The kid calling out for help was my brother. Joel may have been talking to God; it was hard to say since the voice was muffled and the kitchen dark:

“Help, Help! … Is anyone there?”

“Joelie, is that you?”

“Yes, thank God, thank God …”

“Joelie … where are you?”

“In here! Hurry!”


Stuck in the dairy walk-in refrigerator.

I yanked the steel door handle. It swung back slowly, revealing a misty 12 foot-by-12 foot refrigerator and one nearly frozen 16-year-old brother. Joel fell heavily forward and hugged me. “Thank God, Thank God.”

Ruth Starkman lives in San Francisco.