by Rachel, American Christian Faith Adviser, North Carolina
One of the big events of today was shaping and baking the challah for shabbat this evening. In the afternoon 6th and 7th grade campers gathered in the dining hall where Jill, our facilitator, distributed challah dough to each camper to shape before placing them all in the oven.
“Mercy and truth are met together; Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” -Psalms 85:10
Arielle, one of the Jewish 6th grade campers from Jerusalem, shared her own experience baking challah and explained the significance of a tradition she continued with the challah today.
“When you bake the challah you use 1 or 1.5 kilos of dough and take a small piece out of the bread to set aside. When you finish, you can say a blessing and you can ask for wishes with the small piece you set aside (you can wish for a baby, or something for yourself, or for someone to feel better). My grandmother is sick so today I asked that she would feel better. When I made my challah today, I put the piece in foil and you can throw it in the oven with the challah. When the challah is finished you can throw that piece away.”
This small piece of leftover challah dough is called hafrashat challah and members of the Jewish community practice this tradition across the world.
After our 6th grade challah bake and lunch, all of the campers (6th and 7th grade) went to sit and observe as the Muslim campers, counselors and faith advisers practiced Jum’aa prayer. The whole camp was quiet and respectful through the prayers and service which was translated into English wherever possible. After the prayers, the Muslim campers and staff opened the floor for questions.
One of the questions the campers asked was, “Why do the men and women sit separately during prayers?”
A few of the Muslim staff offered answers saying that the primary purpose of prayers and service was to offer total, undivided attention to God. In their tradition, separating the genders is an effective way to limit distractions during such a reverent time.
In our faith advising session with the group, Kareem, American Muslim Faith Adviser for the 6th grade, led the activities. He asked the kids to come together in small groups to write down the stories of some of their religious traditions. The groups had time to record their stories in drawings and words before they were asked to share with one another.
“What’s something new you learned about someone?” Kareem asked the groups afterwards.
“Nazeeh told me that for Easter his family hides eggs in the garden and they search for them together and find candy inside,” Nur shared.
Today was filled with learning about each other’s religious stories and opportunities for the campers to get to know one another better. One of the fun activities today was taking the 6th grade to the lake for canoeing. The boys and girls had so much fun paddling around the lake together in the sunshine.
The day finished with a shabbat service run by the Jewish staff and campers as the rest of the Kids4Peace community sat as observers. Some of the Jewish campers spoke about the significance of shabbat to them after the service. They shared that the day of rest is reflective of God’s day of rest after he created the universe in the first book of the Torah. We got to spend time together as a camp community while we learned from our Jewish friends about some of their traditions.
Maya, one of the Jewish campers from Jerusalem, shared how she prepares for shabbat service at home. “Not everyone necessarily has to wear dresses or skirts,” she said, “but we want to dress respectfully for shabbat… just like you would for any other important occasion.”
As we continue to get to know one another, the kids are becoming comfortable asking questions of one another. There were lots of moments of learning throughout the day from the challah bake this afternoon to the closing shabbat service. We are looking forward to learning more about how our stories are intertwined in the coming days.