I'm entering my second year as a rabbinical student at RRC, after an amazing summer working at Camp JRF. I was Camp's rosh etgar — head of the challenge course. I found my experience at Camp JRF to be totally different from other times I've served as an outdoor educator, because the entire staff is encouraged to infuse Reconstructionist concepts throughout every activity.
My first decision was to change the name of the course. The guiding philosophy of outdoor experiential education is challenge-by-choice: It is crucial for each participant to choose their own goals, in order to feel a sense of ownership over how they are challenged. This is very much in line with the way that we, as Reconstructionists, navigate our Jewish lives. I worked with Camp's Israel educator to find a Hebrew name that would raise up that value. We selected Etgar Atzmi, which means "my own challenge." Then I worked to integrate Reconstructionist ideas into the individual elements of the course. Here’s how we did it with one of the low-ropes challenges, typically known as the Tricky Triangle.
Learn more about belonging, behaving and believing and Reconstructionist approaches to faith and belief—watch this short video lecture by Rabbi Richard Hirsh, '81.
Special thanks to Rabbi Isaac Saposnik, '08, and to the campers of Camp JRF for assistance with this production.