December in Ottawa can be kinda dreary in a good year. The days are short and grey and the weather makes you yearn for a warm blanket and a good book. Add to that the interminable distance from the end of August until the end of December (Expat Alert: That is the real meaning of American Thanksgiving! You deserve a four-day weekend in November!) and you can see why in the best of times teachers and students (and parents) can hit the wall and limp into Winter Break. These are not the “best of times”! These are pandemic times and so that wall is a bit higher and sturdier than normal.
What do you do when your school and your students need a COVID-friendly booster shot of ruach to lift spirits and send us into Chanukah and out to Winter Break with joy and positivity? You turn to a partner with ruach-expertise! This week we were blessed to bring our friends from Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa (CBB) to facilitate special ruach-filled activities in each of our grades at OJCS.
I’ve written in the past about my experiences and thoughts about Jewish camping and the power of informal/experiential education. I won’t revisit all that ground, but I will say that when it comes to the exponential effect of multiple Jewish experiences (day school+ camp + synagogue + youth group), that…
Most importantly we encourage our students to be their authentic Jewish selves as they carry their experiences from context to context. To me, that’s why experiential education matters. It brings with the promise of making real what, in some cases, can only be simulated or sampled within the walls of a classroom. Those are often the most important experiences of all…
Why is Camp magical? Because it is often the place where children (and adults) feel the safest to be their truest selves. Why is Jewish camp magical? Because it is often the place where children (and adults) feel the safest to be their “authentic Jewish selves”. Why is the combination so powerful? Because what you learn at Jewish day school can be lived in Jewish camp. The education that students at OJCS receive can be powerfully brought to life at CBB (and other camps and at synagogue and at home). And for some of our students (probably the ones who need it most), CBB makes Judaism and being Jewish cool; that may be its most important gift to Jewish continuity.
All of this to say, that this was the week we brought the magic of camp – that special brand of ruach – to our school. It was much-needed and much-appreciated.
This was the schedule:
This is a bit of what it looked like:
You may read and see more about it on our OJCS Student Life Blog. Great thanks to our Student Life Coordinator Deanna Bertrend for putting things together on the OJCS side of things. Great thanks to CBB Associate Director Jill Doctor and Assistant Director Marnie Gontovnik for leading things on the CBB side of things. We look forward to increased collaboration between our communal institutions in the future.
Don’t forget to join us for our very special OJCS (Virtual) Family Chanukah Program on Tuesday, December 15th at 7:00 PM! Our Jewish Studies Faculty has been hard at work putting this together and we don’t only want to celebrate our students and the holiday, but we want to celebrate a rare opportunity during these challenging times to come together as a school community. Get your chanukkiyot, your PTA donuts, and your family together and join us on the Google Live Stream!