Warwick, N.Y. — The sun was setting at the Reform movement’s teen leadership camp in this picturesque upstate town, and in the dying light of a sweet summer day it was time for the evening prayer service.Naturally, there's a lot of angst over this. Frankly, aside from outing the camp rabbi as intolerant towards those who are seeking some more meaningful rituals, the article makes much ado out of nothing.
In the lakeside pavilion that serves as Kutz Camp’s synagogue, the visiting musician who led the evening service on the Fourth of July, a Wednesday, set the prayers to an easy-listening jazz sound.
It was a musical style, played on an electric keyboard, that almost none of the campers connected with, many said later. But some took their displeasure a step further, doing something unprecedented that night at Kutz that speaks volumes about a generation of Reform teens that is staking a new claim to Jewish ritual and tradition and posing a challenge for movement leaders.
As the musician played a jazzy version of the Barchu, a couple of campers got up and walked out. Over the next several minutes, other pairs of high school-age campers, one after another, got up and quietly left. It took awhile for the adults in the room to realize what was happening, but some 40 campers in all, about a quarter of those in attendance, spontaneously got up and left the service. The service was too untraditional, they later said, offensively so.
To recap, forty teenagers walked out of an easy-listening jazz service because they didn't connect to the service. This is news? It's impressive that any of them stayed. Who is doing the programming for this camp? Easy-listening jazz? For teens? What where they thinking?