Arts, Crafts and Mysticism at ‘Tanya Camp’ in the Poconos

By Faygie Levy Holt

What happens when you combine arts-and-crafts, science and serious Jewish thought? If you’re enrolled in the girls’ overnight Camp Gan in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains this summer, you get “Tanya Camp” – an interactive way to learn certain Chassidic concepts.

The 10-day workshop was led by longtime educator Rabbi Shais Taub, author of Map of Tanya: Personal Edition, who created the curriculum six years ago to teach his own children ideas that can be difficult to comprehend.

For instance, one unit focused on the idea in the Tanya—the seminal work of Chabad philosophy—that human breath comes from deeper within a person than speech.

“It says in the Zohar that G‑d peaks everything into being, in contrast with the neshama [‘soul’], which is breathed,” explained the rabbi. “Rather than teach that concept using words, I ran a demonstration where one girl speaks into an oscilloscope, which measures sound waves, and another girl blows bubbles in a cup. Then we see who gets tired first.”

After a few trials, the rabbi said everyone realized that talking is less tiring than blowing. The concept was reinforced during a project where campers made pictures by blowing ink through a straw, instead of using a paintbrush.

In this way, “I’m able to teach a Chassidic concept in about 90 seconds,” said Taub. “Today’s youth are impatient. They think in sound bites, and you have to figure out how to work within that reality.”

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