On Camp Eisner, Seeing the Future, and Combating Bullying
A trip to Eisner offers a glimpse into a glorious future framed by the perspective of our past. What else can you call it when hundreds of children, teens, and young adults from around the world gather in unpretentious worship to sing ancient words as given new voice with modern melodies?
I arrived for Shabbat morning services, held indoors, this time, in deference to the threatening weather. The predominantly musical morning was punctuated by short interpretations of Torah, each one presented by a group of three campers, and each one addressing the topic of promises.
A theme emerged: the promise not to bully. I happen to know that a sign in the dining room proclaims Eisner a bully-free zone. I didn’t know that campers, as part of a pledge they sign when they arrive, promise not to bully.
It seems that the plague of bullying is a modern one. There’s no ancient Jewish discussion of it. There isn’t even a Hebrew word for “bullying.”
But our sages were well aware of the power of words. Gossip, even based in truth, is likened to a capital offense in Judaism. You’re not allowed to speak ill of people behind their backs.
Equally, our tradition forbids unwarranted hostility, proclaims the absolute value of human dignity, and decries enslavement of any sort. Bullying aggressively boxes people into an ignoble cage of powerlessness. The Rabbis — who insisted that even if no one else is behaving well, you must strive to — would have been revolted. So like new melodies for timeless words, Eisner’s campaign against bullying is a new passion born of timeless values.
Visitors often want to bring home the beauty they find at Eisner. The campers at Eisner have suggested a first step: take an Eisner-like anti-bullying pledge.
On Sale Everywhere!
- The Bible Doesn't Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations, Misconceptions, and Other Misunderstandings (2016, St. Martin's Press)
- The Bible's Cutting Room Floor: The Holy Scriptures Missing From Your Bible (2014, St. Martin's Press)
- And God Said: How Translations Conceal the Bible's Original Meaning (2010, St. Martin's Press)
- In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language (2004, NYU Press)
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- J.M. Hoffman, my author page.
- TEDx Talk: "Bible Translation and the Next Generation" (Video)
- Why I Allow Cell Phones in My Classes
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