How Wonderful It Is
How good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to sit together.
Hinei ma tov uma na-im
Shevet achim gam yachad.
When I am at our J Camps or Camp Chi, I love listening to campers sing Hinei Ma Tov. They belt it out with a tremendous ruach (spirit) at music specialties, song sessions, Shabbat assemblies, Shabbat services and around campfires. I find it to be a powerful or meta moment when we are doing exactly what we are singing – enjoying our community together.
The words of Hinei Ma Tov define the essence of camp. They speak of the value of being part of a community. They convey inclusiveness where everyone is invited to and can participate. They reference simplicity; just the act of being together is special and deserves recognition.
By using Hinei Ma Tov as one way to define the mission of our camps, we enable our staff to see just how easy it can be to create experiences filled with a sense of community, belonging, inclusivity and enjoyment. This year at many of our J Camps and last summer at Camp Chi, we used music, photography and poetry to bring this concept to life for our counselors.
Together we sang the song of Hinei Ma Tov, learned the meaning of the Hebrew words, discussed when we “feel” or notice a sense of Hinei Ma Tov at camp and how to create more opportunities for children to experience this. We then did a creative exercise using photos.
While looking at a snapshot view of camp, staff were asked to think about the meaning and emotion communicated by the image depicting an everyday occurrence at camp.
Instructions were given to write down five different lines of text using specific guided techniques to describe the photos. What staff didn’t realize was that they were writing poetry.
Throughout the camps and the variety of photos used, the poems’ themes were the same – happiness, fun, togetherness, community, accomplishment and belonging. They unknowingly wrote Hinei Ma Tov poems about the ordinary things that happen every day at our camps. With this new awareness of how simple moments can contribute to the extraordinary things that happen at camp, our staff help make the meaning of Hinei Ma Tov come to life for each camper.
This activity, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, originated at JCC Camp Chi in 2015. It is now part of the JCC Association’s TAG: Daily Living Through a Jewish Lens curriculum produced by The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Jewish Education.