I talked to two informants who attended the same Jewish summer camp at two different times.
How did you alter aspects of prayers at camp?
Informant 1: “We change the words of Birkat Ha’Mazon [the after-meal prayer].”
Informant 2: “Though it’s different from when I was at camp before you.”
חֲבֵרַי נְבָרֵךְ Chaveirai n’vareich (Let us thank God)
- Informant 1: N/A
- Informant 2: Rubber tires never break
יְהִי שֵׁם יְיָ מְבֹרָךְ מֵעַתָּה וְעַד עוֹל Y’hi sheim Adonai m’vorach mei-atah v’ad olam. (Blessed is the name of God now and forever)
- Informant 1: N/A
- Informant 2: Naked swimming is illegal in the state of Idaho
בִּרְשׁוּת הַחֶבְרָה Birshut chaveirai (With Your permission)
- Informant 1: Your shoes have arrived
- Informant 2: Bear shit in your eye
לימשיכו Limshicho (The anointed one)
- Informant 1: Cream Cheese Balls
- Informant 2: N/A
Informant 1 is my twin sister. She attended this camp during the 2010s. Informant 2 is my mother. She attended this camp during the 70s. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other.
In general, Jewish youth assign humorous English phrases to Hebrew ones to try and break up the monotonous prayers they are forced participate in throughout the day. At this camp, Birkat Ha’Mazon is said after breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and saying it three times a day gets very old, very fast. Having silly jokes within the prayer makes it a lot more bearable to complete. When comparing the prayer alterations from Informant 1 to Informant 2, Informant 2’s alterations are far more inappropriate and cruder. This reflects the agenda of the camp administration to crack down on these alterations and make them more appropriate. Their biggest issue with these alterations is that they disrespect concepts involving God. If the administration would have it their way, there would be no alterations at all, but for now, they have settled for “Your shoes have arrived” because it is far better than “Bear shit in your eye.”