For the second straight year, a capacity crowd of more than 200 Jewish high school students and youth advisers affiliated with URJ Camp Newman set sail on a pre-Rosh Hashanah dance cruise.
“Next year, we’re already planning on getting a bigger boat,” declared Ruben Arquilevich, executive director of the Reform movement’s Santa Rosa camp.
Aboard a Blue & Gold vessel that left from Pier 39 in San Francisco, the teens took part in rituals such as tashlich, the sounding of the shofar and eating apples and honey. They also danced, noshed, shmoozed and — on the top deck — joined in song with Jackson Mercer, a UCLA student and summer camp song leader, next to a mock campfire.
The four-hour “New Year’s on the Bay” took place on Sept. 12, a night before Erev Rosh Hashanah. Since it was a Saturday night, Havdallah was observed, and for tashlich, teens threw breadcrumbs off the deck.
According to Camp Newman officials, some of the teens on board had never attended a Jewish summer camp or participated in a Jewish youth group. But they called the cruise, and other year-round events staged by Camp Newman, a good way to lower the barrier to entry for unaffiliated teens.
“As we’ve been planning these year-round events, it’s been rewarding to see how this model has re-engaged teens who aren’t deeply involved in Jewish camping or youth groups,” said Alex Rogers, a youth engagement specialist at Camp Newman. “They meet new friends at these Jewish events and their interest for other Jewish experiences gets piqued.”
Ben Robinow, a ninth-grader at Jewish Community High School in San Francisco, was one of the attendees. “The integration between all the grades was great, and I met a bunch of new people,” he said.
Camp Newman partnered with several synagogues on the event; Beth Am in Los Altos Hills and Temple Isaiah in Lafayette sold so many tickets they commissioned buses to transport the teens to Pier 39.
“We’ve realized that partnerships are key. Synagogues don’t often have the budget or staff to plan events on this scale, but they do have active Jewish teen groups,” Rogers said. “We can leverage Camp Newman’s team, resources and experience” to create more events like this one, such as an eighth-grade Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk overnight and two congregational trips to Los Angeles that are in the planning stages.
For more information, contact Rogers at [email protected] or visit www.campnewman.org. — j. staff