Tag Archives: children

Returning Home to Camp Newman

Sharing the thank you letter I sent to the directors at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA following the wonderful summer I spent on faculty at my childhood camp. It was such an honor to be a camp rabbi!

Dear Ruben, Erin and Allie,

I wanted to write you all a (much) belated note and thank you so much for welcoming me and my family back home to Camp Newman last summer. We had such a wonderful time at camp.

I am grateful that I was able to give back to the community that is such a part of my identity. I loved every minute of being on faculty. Of course, nothing is like Shabbat at camp. But also, I loved the everyday camp minutes, so very many of them: going on the “Novernight” and telling stories at the campfire ring; participating in a Chayim girls cabin time; painting toenails with campers to prepare for Shabbat; checking in on a homesick camper; starting lanyards by the art tables; sitting with counselors and listening to their hopes and fears about college; mentoring rabbinic students as they prepared their first High Holy Day sermons; catching the “ah-ha” moments in the high school study sessions; working with campers to incorporate movement and art and storytelling into tefillah; getting to know and work with the talented and caring staff and counselors in my session and throughout camp. It was such a gift to be a part of camp.

Thank you also for caring so wonderfully for my children. The Camp Katan staff were so patient and understanding. My kids had a great time – and they still talk about camp all the time!

Writing this letter, next summer seems so very far away. But we know that it will come sooner than we might think – and we hope to be able to return home to Camp Newman again.

Wishing you all a shana tova,


Rabbi Leah Doberne-Schor

The Secret Shabbat Blessing

When I was an Assistant Rabbi, I would celebrate with the Early Childhood Program at their weekly Shabbat Party. A few parents would join their children for the festivities, and they would be invited to stay behind for a few moments with the rabbi.

The parents and students would gather with me in the front of the chapel, by the Aron (the ark that houses the Torah scrolls). Then came my favorite part of the morning:  I would instruct the parents to hold their children close, maybe even place a hand on their children’s head or shoulders. I explained to the parents that it is customary for parents to bless their children on Friday evening, often right after the candles are lit. I taught them the words of the traditional blessing.

I then asked them to whisper a “secret Shabbat blessing” into their children’s ear.  To go beyond the words on the page and find the blessing in their heart. The preschoolers kept wiggling and squirming, but the room became filled with laughter and smiles and indescribable sounds of happiness.

How often do we tell the people in our lives that we love them? And more than that, share with them how they are special to us?

This, in and of itself, is reason enough to bless each other. But there is another reason I think it important for parents to offer a “secret Shabbat blessing” of their own.  We may be used to giving compliments. “That’s a beautiful shiny bow you are wearing.” “You sat so quietly today.” “I like the truck on your T-shirt.” While a compliment is a form of praise, most only touch the surface. A blessing, on the other hand, connects us to something deeper – to who we really are.

We can bless our children for so many reasons. A (very) partial list might include:

  • because they tried their best (even if it didn’t work out)
  • because they worked hard and did better the next time
  • because they learned something new
  • because they acted as a good friend (sibling, helper)
  • because they were kind
  • because they were brave
  • because they shared (even when it was hard)
  • because they demonstrated a wonderful sense of humor
  • because they were a team player
  • because they were honest (even when it came at a cost)
  • because they asked a good question
  • because they learned how to make good choices

When we offer our children their own Shabbat blessing, one tailored just for them – based upon how we have seem them grow and learn and live in the past week – we show them that we notice them, we demonstrate that we value them, and we teach them that we love them for their successes and struggles and, indeed, their entire being, not just what shows up on the surface.

We teach them that we want them to grow up to be menschen (people of integrity and honor) and that we are there for them on that journey.

In essence, we teach them that they are loved and blessed because they have a beautiful neshama, a beautiful soul and spirit. That the Source of Life and Blessing flows through them – their breath, their life, their actions. That they are a gift from God.

This post also appears at ReformJudaism.org.