This article originally appeared in the Chicago Jewish News on 8/13/2010. See the original article here.
Summer camp is supposed to be educational, but kids at Camp Moshava in Wild Rose, Wis. received a little extra real-life learning earlier this summer.
They witnessed the bris of a baby boy born to a family living in nearby Door County.
It’s the third bris, or ritual circumcision, that Rabbi Moshe Kushner has performed at the camp over the last two decades.
Kushner, now the executive director of the Chicago Rabbinical Council who served as director of the camp for 22 years, said he received a call from an Israeli couple, Jennifer and Ronen Eliyah, living in Door County. They had a new baby boy, and there was no rabbi near them. Kushner told them to come to the camp.
The Eliyahs, who own a business selling T-shirts at the Dells resort area, arrived with baby Matan and their three daughters, and Kushner performed the bris in front of the campers and staff. A festive meal followed. (Watch a YouTube video of the event at moshavawildrose.org.)
“Moshava is an educational camp, and I felt this was hands on,” he said with a laugh. “I felt it was a good way to bring something different to the camp, something religious and educational, and to get the kids involved in questions and answers. They had a great time.”
Camp Moshava is sponsored by the Religious Zionists of Greater Chicago and Bnei Akiva.
Camp staff member Jack Gottesman wrote in an e-mail that “Rabbi Kushner spoke directly to the campers, which made them feel included in the brit. Having a brit at camp accomplishes one of our primary goals here, which is to bring the mitzvot to life as much as possible. In our attempt to make camp as educational as possible, this opportunity for the campers to watch the brit directly from the sidelines is one we are sure that they will never forget!”
Rabbi Kushner performed his first bris at the camp 18 or 19 years ago when he was the director. At that time, unbeknownst to Kushner, an Israeli shaliach (representative) at the camp and his wife were trying to adopt a baby.
Kushner was awakened with a 6 a.m. phone call on a Friday in July and said to his wife, “I feel in my blood this is a phone call about a baby.” It was the shaliach, asking the rabbi if it was permissible for a couple of adopt a baby during the Nine Days, a traditional period of mourning. A baby had just been born in Pittsburgh and was available for them to adopt, he explained.
“I got them to (the nearest airport at) Appleton and then they were able to get to Pittsburgh before Shabbat,” Kushner said. “The next Friday I did the bris.”
That baby is now a young man serving in the Israel Defense Forces who keeps in touch with Kushner and recently sent him a picture of himself with his unit.
The third bris at the camp took place about three years ago, Kushner said, and was for the child of an Israeli couple living in Rhinelander, Wis. For them to come to Chicago, or for the rabbi to go to their home, would have been an eight-hour trip. He told them he would meet them half way and performed the bris at camp.
To his knowledge, he said, Moshava is the only camp that has ever hosted a bris, much less three of them.