The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

September 18, 2013 by

Dispatches from Lesbian Vacationland

medium_252409289As the new school year begins, I want to take one moment to reflect on the summer. And my biggest lesson this summer? To be honest, it was about Jewish education. And who says a Jewish education can’t be fun? (Okay, it’s possible that I did, for much of my childhood. That was back in an earlier period for me before I fell in love with Judaism, a rabbi, and the small town where she landed a pulpit – in that order. These days, since she’s the basically village rabbi and I work as the Jewish educator, we not-so-jokingly call ourselves the Lesbian Chabad.)

The Lesbian Chabad, as I’ve mentioned, is stationed up in Maine – which in the winter months does a striking imitation of the Eastern European shteppe from which we both hail. Come summer, though, this place magically morphs into Vacationland, and you’d think there’s not a lot of room for Jewish learning in Vacationland.

You’d be wrong, however, and vastly underestimating both the efforts of my wife R. and myself – and the absolute love of Judaism our Hebrew school kids have up here (not to mention the devotion their parents have to making sure they have Jewish experiences as often as possible). They so love spending time “doing Jewish,” whether it’s in the single room where we teach several grades of Hebrew school at once, at synagogue, on Shabbat hikes – whatever, wherever, our kids are in. They’re an educator’s dream.As it turns out, though, Jewish camp is pretty darn expensive, especially in a state that comes in on the decided bottom of any listing by income. This is not a rich state; we don’t serve a rich congregation. As it turns out, not all Jews are wealthy – but most of our institutions definitely function as if they were. That’s a feminist issue if ever I’ve heard of one, but I’ll not digress into the myriad ways that the Jewish community of America is discriminating (by volition and omission) based on geography and class. More on that some other time – because it’s what we’ve found instead that is so awesome.

For a week, R. and I ran what insurance concerns prevent me from calling a “camp.” But we had a gathering of Jewish kids (and some of their non-Jewish friends) who met every morning for a week at a beautiful lakeside piece of property, leant to us by a family in the congregation. They made challah covers and practiced cantillation (and seriously – have you ever seen a kid happy to be practicing cantillation?), played Shimon Omer (Simon says) and Or Adom, Or Yarok (Red Light Green Light) until they were exhausted, and careful recited the appropriate blessing over every snack and lunchtime sandwich. They were thrilled to bang their hearts out on our picnic table while bentching (saying the grace after meals), and they cuddled together to watch ancient episodes of Shalom Sesame when it rained. At the end of the week, every single kid asked when we were doing it again.

This whole Lesbian Chabad enterprise is a macrocosm of that camp – exhausting, logistically challenging, sometimes dirty and sometimes more work than I’d imagined – and without a doubt, the most fulfilling thing I’ve done.



photo credit: AlexPears via photopin cc