Written by Executive Director, Ken Kramarz, and Head Jewish Programmer, Laura Rumpf
If you’re old enough to have or know children at Camp Tawonga, you’re old enough to remember the pithy reminder plastered to Blockbuster videocassettes: “Be Kind. Rewind.” Refresh that memory, because we believe it can help you unlock the secret that every Tawongan longs to know: how can we sustain that special glow we see in ourselves and campers after returning from camp?
Parents often tell us that after a summer at Tawonga, their kids are nicer to their siblings, voluntarily helpful around the house, and generally happier, cheerier balls of energy — at least for a little while.
“If only you could bottle that Tawonga magic,” parents say, “and send it home with the kids to save for the days when the challenges of daily life start to surface!”
The secret to sustaining that magic glow is actually quite simple: at Tawonga we work to create a culture in which campers and staff lead every interaction — from mealtime conversations, to campers stepping out of their comfort zone at the Challenge Course, there’s a certain kind of infectious kindness that is rooted in our Jewish tradition.
Judaism teaches us that kindness — specifically action-oriented, mindful loving-kindness — is the most fundamental element of our humanity. As Chabad’s Rabbi Nosson Potash, one of our beloved visiting camp Rabbis says, “In 70 or 80 years of living, one’s entire life purpose could be to show one kindness to one other person. You never know which one kindness has made all the difference.”
In Hebrew, the word that captures this unique value is chesed. It sounds simple, but putting chesed into practice takes work, and there is no better place than Tawonga to engage in it. We — the authors — have taken a mutual pledge this summer that we call the Ten Chesed Challenge.
Ten Chesed, in Hebrew, literally commands to “give kindness” (and of course, “ten” is a homonym for the English “10”). The saying works out well as a bilingual self-reminder to be mindfully kind. While we’re not literally ticking off incidents of compassion like chores on a to-do list, we are checking in with each other daily to remind one another that we should proactively pursue loving-kindness in the way we treat others.
As we’ve been practicing the Ten Chesed Challenge, we’ve noticed ourselves taking more and more “rewind” moments, intentionally pausing for inspiration as we consider each next interaction.That moment has been making all the difference in being able to say the kindest thing we can conjure up — even in moments of strife or irritation. And inevitably, the way we’re greeted, when we lead with kindness, evokes a sense of greater connectedness — what we like to call “camp-bliss” — that is neither forced nor expected, but certainly feels good.
We recognize that Tawongans face many challenges when attempting to sustain “camp-bliss kindness” when returning to the real-world. The real-world obstacles stopping us from being radically kind resurface — cell phone alarms, traffic, and after-school homework just to name a few.
We want to offer the Ten Chesed Challenge as a potential tool to help combat some of those obstacles. It’s an invitation for you to remember to “be kind and rewind” a moment before surface tension erupts into conflict. Pausing in challenging moments helps refocus the words we say — this time, leading to a place of “camp-bliss” loving-kindness.
When you take up the task of going into every interaction with Ten Chesed, you will start to see a shift in your friends, children, colleagues, and even yourself, all the while getting a taste of the Tawonga glow coming down the mountain, right to your doorstep.
So remember: Be Kind. Rewind. Ten Chesed.
Laura Rumpf is our brilliant Head Jewish Programmer this summer. She is currently in her third-year of rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. Ken Kramarz is our incredible leader and Executive Director who has spent over 32 years coming to Tawonga.
The Shablog series on The Pipeline blog is dedicated to Jewish content and shared on Shabbat. Some of you might remember that the Shablog used to be the name of Tawonga’s blog. Well, we didn’t want to let it go entirely, so are bringing it back on this special day set apart in the week.
Below, enjoy photos of this morning’s service. Check back later today here on The Pipeline for more updates and photos.