“But Mom, I was gonna hang out with my friends this summer! You can’t make me go to…a…Jewish day camp! It’s completely NOT fair!” Rebecca was furious with her mother. Wasn’t going to Hebrew School enough for her?
“Becca, I know you think Hebrew School is boring,” Rebecca’s mother said, practically reading her mind. “But camp will be different. You’ll do activities while learning about your Jewish heritage.” She paused, waiting to see Becca’s reaction.
“Please, Becca, give it a try.”
THE MORNING BEFORE CAMP
“Mom, what am I supposed to wear? I want to fit in.” Her mother went to her closet, paused, and then took out a long denim skirt and a pink long-sleeved shirt with a rhinestone heart on the front.
“Here,” Becca’s mom handed her the outfit. Becca shrugged.
“I’ll try it.”
Half an hour later, Becca was dressed, fed, and ready to go.
“Come on, Mom! We’ve got to go or I’ll be late!”
Becca’s mom popped her head out of the kitchen.
“Oh, I already arranged for the rabbi’s daughter to come and walk with you to camp. It’s only a few blocks away, you know.”
Becca was about to protest or cancel, but it was too late. The doorbell rang. Becca stood there as if she’d been whacked on the head. She came back to reality and frantically grabbed her bags, said a rushed goodbye to her mother, and opened the front door. A girl who looked about her age was smiling at Becca. She had dark brown eyes, curly brown hair, and was dressed similarly to Becca.
“Hi! You’re Rebecca, right?”
“Cool. My name is Dina. By the way, your skirt is so cute!”
Becca found herself smiling.
“Really? I usually don’t wear this type of thing but if you think it’s cute then I’ll probably fit in okay at camp.” Becca realized what she had said and slapped her hand over her mouth. Did I really just say that? thought Becca. Dina understood Becca’s reaction and smiled.
“Don’t worry. You don’t have to be super religious to fit in! Just be yourself.” Dina looked meaningfully at Becca. Becca nodded, still looking embarrassed.
“So are we gonna walk to camp or what?” Dina said happily. She grabbed Becca’s arm and started walking.
Fifteen minutes later, they arrived at camp. Most of the other girls there already knew each other. Dina grabbed Becca again and said, “Come on, meet some of my friends.”
Dina took Becca over to a group of about five girls who were talking among themselves. They were all wearing long skirts. Becca made a mental note to thank her mother.
“Guys! I want to introduce you to Rebecca, but everyone calls her Becca. Now Becca, this is Mindy,” she said pointing. “Chani, Nechama, Leeba, and Naomi.” Dina took a deep breath. Everyone smiled at Becca. Then Mindy spoke up. “What’s your Hebrew name? You know, since it’s a Jewish camp everyone should call you by your Hebrew name.
“My Hebrew name?” Becca’s hands got sweaty. She couldn’t really remember it right off the bat.
“Yes, your Hebrew name.” Mindy almost sounded snooty.
“I…Uuh, my…I,” Becca didn’t know what to say.
Dina finally came to her defense.
“Her Hebrew name is Rivka, of course! Now come on, camp is about to start.”
For Becca – now known as Rivka – the day went without a glitch. Rivka was even enjoying herself! The summer’s theme was “Kosher.” Many people had even given camp the nickname Kamp Kosher. Rivka had never even really heard about it. But so far it seemed interesting.
For an animal to be kosher, it had to have split hooves and chew its cud. For a fish, it had to have fins and scales. For a bird, it was only kosher if it wasn’t a bird of prey. Another main law was that you were not allowed to mix dairy and meat. But the very interesting thing about the Jewish law of keeping kosher was that G-d gave no explanation for giving this law, or mitzvah as they called it in camp.
For the rest of the week, the counselors in camp took aside the non-religious girls to learn about Jewish laws. But the counselors came up with ways to teach using memory games, hopscotch, and tag. Learning was never boring!
Rivka was also making some really great friends. She was especially close with Dina, Chani, and Nechama. Sometimes Mindy could be a little bit prickly.
After the first week of camp, Rivka decided she wanted to spend time with her friends from camp even on weekends! Who would have guessed! So Rivka planned to invite all of her friends to come and have lunch at her father’s restaurant. He owned a very fancy Italian restaurant called Mama Mia! Rivka loved going there to eat. The food was SO good.
While everyone was waiting for their parents to come and pick them up, Rivka asked.
“I was wondering if you wanted to come and have lunch with me at the restaurant, Mama Mia! My dad owns it, so we could get a really great discount. So, what do you say?”
Dina looked at Rivka tentatively. “Do you mean that really fancy Italian restaurant on Cotwell Street?”
“Yeah, is that okay with you?”
Dina heard a beep behind her. “Ohy, my mom’s here. Um, Rivka, I’ll call you on Sunday, ‘kay? Bye!” Dina ran off to the car.
Rivka turned around to face the rest of the group but two of them had also gone to get their rides home. That left Nechama, Naomi and Mindy. “So are you guys in?” Rivka asked imploringly. Mindy said something: “Well, I have to babysit this weekend. Um…I’m…Well… I’ll see you guys on Monday!” Mindy said all this very quickly and then ran off.
Was Rivka imagining it or was everyone avoiding her offer? Nechama and Naomi smiled at her weakly. By the look on their faces Rivka could tell that they probably weren’t going to be able to make it either.
Naomi said, “I’ll check with my mom, bye!,” and went to get her little sister.
“Um, Rivka, I can’t remember if I’ve got anything going on Sunday, so I’ll call you. Alright?” Nechama said this very carefully. You could tell she was trying to be polite, but Rivka had a feeling that something was going on.
“Sure, of course! I guess I’ll talk to you later. Bye.” The girls separated. There was that feeling again! That feeling that Rivka’s friends were hiding something from her. Well, I won’t dwell on it for now, thought Rivka. She waited for her mom to come and pick her up.
“BBRRING!” The phone rang in Rivka’s house Sunday morning. Rivka picked up.
“Hi, Rivka this is Naomi. I’m really sorry, but I can’t go with you to Mama Mia! today.” Naomi really did sound sorry. Rivka forced herself to say something.
“Oh, well, okay. That’s fine, really. I’ll see you tomorrow. Bye.” Rivka hung up. Later that morning, Rivka got two more calls very similar to Naomi’s. On the fourth call of the morning, Dina was on the line.
“Dina! I’m so happy to hear from you! YOU’LL come, right?” Dina swallowed hard.
“Actually, Rivka, none of us can come…Because…Well…We all keep strictly kosher and that restaurant isn’t kosher.”
Rivka was too shocked and embarrassed to say anything at first. How could she have not realized that when she’d been learning the laws of kosher all week!?
“Oh my gosh! Dina! I completely forgot all about that, which is really stupid of me because that’s all I’ve been learning about in camp! I’m so sorry! I probably made all of you so uncomfortable! Oh, Dina, are you mad at me?!” Rivka finally understood it all. Dina laughed.
“Of course not! I just wanted to tell you why everyone couldn’t come instead of lying.”
“Thanks, Dina. So if we can’t go to that restaurant why don’t we go to a kosher one?” Rivka asked simply. Dina sighed.
“Because there are no kosher restaurants!”
“Oh,” Rivka said, very surprised. “Well, don’t worry, Dina! I’ll think of something! Oh, and thanks again. Bye!”
“Rivka wait—” But it was too late. Rivka had already hung up and all Dina heard was the buzz of the dial tone in her ear.
LATER THAT NIGHT
“Daddy?” Rivka asked. “Have you ever considered making your restaurant kosher?” Rivka’s question took her father by surprise.
“Yeah, actually I did. A few years ago I considered going kosher very seriously. But in the end, I decided against it. Why do you ask?” he said.
“I was wondering if maybe you could switch over, to you know, become Kosher,” Rivka asked cautiously.
“Becca, I don’t think you understand what—”
“Daddy, yes I DO understand! I learned about practically every law on kosher this week in camp!” Rivka waited for an answer. It finally came.
“Do you understand what it might do to my business? I could lose customers! And all of the expenses to buy new pots and pans, silverware and dishes?! That would cost me an outrageous amount of money!” Rivka’s father was starting to get frustrated now. Couldn’t Becca understand how hard that would be for him?
“But Daddy, what about all the new customers and business you’ll get? All of the Jewish community will come to your restaurant because you’d be the only kosher restaurant within miles!”
“Becca, no, I will not switch around my restaurant. It’s too difficult!” Rivka’s father stood up, indicating that the conversation was over, but Rivka tried one more time.
“Daddy, please just think—”
“No, Becca. I’m done thinking about it. I’m sorry.” He walked out of the room leaving Becca to sit there in silence.
The next day in camp was fun, but the conversation that Rivka had with her father was still fresh in her mind. When the end of the day rolled around, guess who was there to pick Rivka up?! Her father!
“Why are you here to pick me up?” Rivka asked.
“Because I would like to tell you that I thought about what you said yesterday and I am going to switch over to kosher!”
Rivka bounced up and down in her seat.
“Wow! Awesome! Thanks, Dad!” Rivka was so excited.
Her father replied, “I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for the community.”
ONE MONTH LATER
Finally, all of the transformations had been made. Rivka was finally able to bring all of her friends to her father’s KOSHER restaurant.