Words For The Wise – a Shabbat Message from Rabbi Dan

Guess what?!?!?! (Shhhhh, its a secret!) Yesterday was Maccabiah!

It was thrilling to see our campers and staff energized on their teams for “Wizard of Oz Maccabiah.” The program kicked off with a bang on Wednesday evening- complete with purple and orange horses, a flying house and a fog filled “Kansas twister” scene on the Ohalim hill. The entire camp followed the Yellow Brick Road out our of the dining hall and down to Ohalim where they were surprised tot kickoff of this exciting 24 hour competition. Wait for it…. Blue Team Won! Our world could certainly use more moments of the unbridled joy experienced in a Camp Wise Maccabiah.

This has been a very special 6th week of the summer for Camp Wise. We said goodbye to our 26 Rishon campers on Wednesday, we’ve grown through a full week of chugim (specialty activities) and several groups have enjoyed overnights or trips out of camp. It’s clear in the smiles and sparkling eyes of our campers that they are thriving here in Chardon.

For overnight camps around the country, 2022 has proven to be an especially challenging summer journey. At many of our JCCA network camps, COVID-19 proved tougher than expected to manage on camp and some even had to end sessions early. The current variants simply spread too fast and overcome masking and regular testing. We are so grateful that our Mandel JCC leadership and our medical advisor team that helped Camp Wise develop well-informed practices this summer, but no plan is perfect. We have been very lucky to have experienced relatively small impacts of COVID in our camp community, likely due to the conditions of our Cleveland area experiencing less spread than in other parts of the country. A 100% COVID-19 free summer was never a goal, nor would it be a realistic goal under current regional conditions. Our objective was to provide a transformational summer experience in the healthiest and safest way possible – this we have nearly achieved as the summer draws to a close.

The Jewish community reads Parashat Matot-Masei this Shabbat. In this section of the book of Numbers we learn about the value of our verbal commitments to others:

“Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel:  ‘This is what God commands:  When a person makes a vow [neder] to God or takes an oath [shevua] to obligate themself by a pledge [issar], they must not break their word but must do everything they said.’”  

(Numbers 30:1–2)

In this instance, a vow is a pledge, by God’s name, that you will follow through in something, and an oath is a promise to do a task to serve God or to dedicate something to God. These are two verbal pledges that a person could make – perhaps in moment of haste, desperation, or urgency – and then they would be bound, by their lives, to uphold such pledges.

On Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement we recite the prayer “Kol Nidrei.” This prayer is meant to absolve us of of oaths and vows we might say and not able to keep. At camp, we put energy and intention into the way we use our words. In fact at Camp Wise – nearly every word said out-loud to all of camp triggers a different cheer, lest we not choose our words carefully: “Announcements, Information, Massive cleanup, Safety Note, Messages, etc…” While it is a ton of fun to cheer in our Chadar Ochel and allow our campers to take over the stage, there’s a larger symbolism to all of this silliness. ”

Words matter. We bring a sense of intention and value to our words with one another when we practice the value of Shomer HaLashon in our camp environment. This thoughtfulness transfers into the cabin spaces when we call each other by the names and pronouns we each prefer, when we channel respect in the way we refer to one another in front of others, when we avoid name calling and bullying – and when we offer one another praise. Words also matter when we are honest and transparent about our challenges and successes.

At The Home of Happiness Shomer HaLashon has also become our guiding value with parent communication. Whether about a child’s struggles or successes here in the camp program, or about how we are managing the ever-changing picture of health and wellness with COVID-19 – our goal is to communicate with transparency, with honor and respect toward all parties involved, and with the best of intentions toward a positive outcome. We hope Camp Wise becomes part of our campers’ experiences year round and that we become part of supporting Camp Wise families’ in their growth and care for young people year round as well. All of this begins with our words and our commitments.

As we head into this Shabbat – we pray for a healthy and joy-filled conclusion to Summer 2022! Thank you for your partnership all summer long in setting up our amazing campers and staff for success and memories that will last a lifetime!

Rabbi Dan



Ohalim had a great last full week of camp! We flew back and forth across the Atlantic to visit both Jersey and New Jersey on Jersey Night! We also visited the zoo and got messy and colorful at our Animal Planet Paint Party! We are having a ton of fun and can’t wait to see what the last few days of camp bring.


Noar has been having an amazing session! We had an awesome circus themed paint party, as well as our favorite program milky toe night where we were initiated in to the society of the milky toe gods. 8th grade had an amazing time at Hocking Hills, zip lining and canoeing, where 9th grade spent the day at Put in Bay hanging out on the beach and playing mini golf. We are sad camp is almost over, but are going in to our last Shabbat and few days at camp ready to have a blast!


We started the week off with an amazing trip to Pennsylvania! We visited the inclines in Pittsburgh, toured Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house and went white water rafting at Ohiopyle. We had such a blast! At camp this week, we found our way down the yellow brick road in Maccabiah of Oz and cheered our hearts out! We can’t wait for Solel Shabbat this weekend and the last few days of camp!