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The New Camp Stein Siddur

Blog Post by Rabbi Nicole Berne, Summer 2019 Director of Jewish Life at Camp Stein

This summer at camp, part of my job was to help campers and staff generate materials to be curated and compiled during the year to become our brand-new Camp Stein siddur, by camp and for camp. The inside of the book had to match the feel and the liturgy of t’filah at camp. It had to be deeply infused with Jewish prayer AND overflowing with the ruach of the summer. It was going to take a lot of work: we needed material for a typical weekday evening service plus the Shabbat extras for Friday night, Saturday morning with a Torah service, and Havdallah.

I will confess that I was worried. Last summer, we spent all of limud learning about t’filah. I didn’t imagine they’d be enthusiastic about spending even more time talking about prayers – but the idea that they could put their own stamp on it, that this siddur would be truly theirs, captivated them.

Their passion for the project was clear in their diligence – as campers came up to me to ask if they could keep working on their microcalligraphy project in their cabin, if we’d be working on the poetry again next time, and as they came up to me, time and time again, to offer their suggestions for what the prayer book should look like.

Among the ideas they suggested:

  • Make the prayer book in the shape of our heart-star (where the binding would go, no one was quite sure!)
  • Have a little light come with it, so we can use them at night if it gets dark
  • Make it digital and put it on iPads to save paper
  • Have the binding be made out of lanyard string
  • Let each kid make a friendship bracelet that can then be the binding of their prayer book

They had suggestions on page layouts, on materials (I eventually convinced them that stone tablets, while a cool idea, would be too heavy), and on packaging. Someone said we should give up on books entirely and put the content on the benches themselves – although we weren’t sure if that meant we’d have to stand the whole time or if we’d put in room for people to sit. They talked passionately about the importance of color – in the artwork, and in color-coding systems they suggested, like one to indicate whether we read, chant, or sing a particular prayer. They brainstormed methods of communicating prayer choreography, suggesting the monkey with its hands over its eyes emoji to accompany the Sh’ma.

They were passionate and creative, and they blew me away all summer long with how they took on the siddur project and made it their own. I’d state the task for the day and invariably someone would come up and ask if they could do something else – and they usually had a very clear idea about what specifically they wanted to work on instead.

I am so excited to share some of their work with you in these photos. Follow camp on Facebook, as we continue to share the poems, artwork, and design layout ideas our brilliant, innovative, and deeply thoughtful camp community has created. We can’t wait to update you on our progress as we move forwards with this exciting work!