Shablog – How to Be Present

By Genevieve Greinetz, Jewish Program Director


Each year, Camp Tawonga selects a Jewish theme that we feel is relevant to the broader question, “What does the world need more of?”


The theme usually takes the shape of a Jewish value, and we teach this value to our campers with the intention that they will take it with them into the world and make it a better place.


This year, our theme is Hineni, which translates to “here I am.”


In the Torah, Hineni is said at profound moments of being present with G-d.  For instance, when G-d calls out to Abraham,“Ayecha?” (“where are you?”), Abraham responds, “Hineni,” “Here I am,” which we can interpret both physically and emotionally.


When Moses sees the burning bush, G-d calls out, “Moses! Moses!” to which he responds, “Hineni.” The wisdom of our tradition teaches the profound importance of being present in the moment and ready to act. In today’s rapidly paced world with a myriad of distractions, being present is a tremendously valuable skill, as well as a gift.


This summer, I have been leading Tawonga campers in a weekly Ruach Hour that is dedicated to learning about Hineni. Through four main lenses, we explore this theme:

  • Being present with others;
  • Being present with the Earth;
  • Being present with G-d and spirituality;
  • And being present with ourselves.


This week, Session III campers worked together with their bunks to create short skits illustrating a way of being present through one of these lenses. I was blown away – the skits were brilliant! Campers performed everything from Hineni raps to games, bringing in very relevant and relatable situations.


One of the skits began with a camper sitting in meditation. Slowly, each one of his bunkmates stepped on to the stage, pretending to be one of his thoughts. The peaceful moment quickly turned into a cacophony of noise, and finally the meditating camper yelled out, “Hineni!!!” and his thoughts immediately quieted.


The value of Hineni is particularly important in today’s society. By learning to be present and practicing this value here at Camp Tawonga, it is our hope that campers continue to be present in their own lives and communities and for the world.


This summer, it is my honor and privilege to be able to say, “Hineni” to Camp Tawonga.



Genevieve is Camp Tawonga’s Jewish Program Director as well as a former Tawonga camper. This fall, she will begin rabbinical school at Hebrew College in Boston.


P.S. Last year’s Jewish theme was Derech Eretz, which literally translates to “way of the land.” It is often used in the context of being a “mensch.” Read Associate Director Aaron Mandel’s reflections on this theme here


P.P.S. The Shablog is a series published on The Pipeline during Shabbat covering all things Jewish.