This is the third installment in a series of blogs from our camp staff. Each of the staff were asked how their area of camp (rock climbing, archery, horseback riding, etc) and Judaism was linked for them, and how they have brought the two together in their lives.
The ways that we interact with animals at Camp Ramah reflects a greater compassion for the natural world. Judaism teaches that we should respect and love the animals that surround us. We focus on learning from the goats, chickens, alpacas, and ducks by observing the way that their world works in connection to ours. Our campers and staff help provide our animals with food, shelter, and safety while we receive milk, eggs, and love from our animals.
There are a few specific things we do to really focus on the back and forth of caring for the animals. I particularly like to focus on thanking the animals. For example, after milking Grace, one of our goats this summer, we always went back to thank her. Thanking her for her milk changes the interaction from one where we are simply receiving, to one where we are gratefully receiving. Not only does this completely change the dynamic of caring for Grace as a being instead of just a means to receive milk, but it also teaches us to appreciate the things we are given. By loving and caring for Grace, including cleaning her enclosure, walking her, feeding her, socializing with her, and milking her, we are learning the amount of work it takes to receive a small amount of milk.
Beyond appreciating the animals, I try to encourage campers and staff alike to connect with the animals. Simply saying hello while passing by an enclosure is a great way to form a relationship with the other inhabitants of camp. It takes a lot of patience and understanding, but when we were really able to have relationships with the animals, it was magical to see the interactions. From some campers that were willing to wake up early to feed the chickens, to others who were missing home and told the goats all about their families, I’m sure our animals can’t wait for the buses to roll up and for camp to be in session again.