I’ve been involved in Jewish summer camp for a long time. My first summer on staff was 1984 and it was a life-changing experience.
There are so many memories catalogued in my head but one category has risen up this summer. Already, when I arrived at camp, the session called Hagigah was an institution. Hagigah is the arts session full of singers, dancers, painters and many other artistic sorts. I’ve always enjoyed art but never felt particularly adept at it.
But Hagigah is not exclusive to hard core artists. Anyone can participate and anyone can have their artistic talents awakened in this program. A variety of staff artists work with the teen campers and inspire them to create beautiful art. Thirty years ago, what most impressed me was the stained glass art. Michelle and David created spectacular pieces with the campers and have gone on to create masterpieces of synagogue art.
Here's what Michelle and David are up to now: Plachte Zuieback Art Glass
Today we have different artists including Nancy who works with the kids to create impressive tallitot (prayer shawls), Alaina who works with sculpture and Isaac who creates brilliant paper cut art.
Check out Isaac's refreshingly new take on this traditional medium: NiceJewishArtist.com
One of the particular talents of the camp artists is their ability to coach the campers into creating their own works of art. It’s one thing to be a great artist, it’s another to be able to help others create great works.
This summer was my first opportunity to serve as faculty for the Hagigah session and I was honored to work together with Dan Nichols and Jackson Vance Mercer in the Songleading and Songwriting workshops.
Dan is another great artist who embodies that particular talent of inspiring and coaching others to help them create art.
I particularly enjoyed watching Dan take an idea and patiently encourage the members of the group to explore their feelings, take a difficult subject and make it into art. He brought us the beginnings of a text and melody from Psalm 3… Lo Ira… “I will not fear the tens of thousands that surround me. Rise up God, and save me.” Psalm 3:7-8. It’s a powerful text and the resulting melody is just as powerful.
I believe in art in a myriad of forms and it’s great to see that the tradition of creating sacred art at our Jewish camps is still alive and well.
Here’s the 2014 URJ Camp Newman Hagigah Songwriting workshop performing Lo Ira...