What the heck is the Zorch?
“I think it was done on Tisha’b’av, inside the bunk, they [the counselors] would, before bed, they would turn off all the lights and hang dry cleaning plastic, you know what you wrap with, whatever that’s called, hang it from a lamp on a hanger, roll it down to make a column and would light it on fire. And underneath would be a bucket of water, like a white bucket of water, and the bits of melted plastic would fall into the bucket and *floom* [fire noise] light it up! They don’t do it anymore (laughs).”
What was the purpose?
“To scare the crap out of the little kids? (laughs) I have no idea. I think it happened on Tisha’b’av because it was sort of spooky, and um… it was almost like a ghost story kind of thing. Sadly, I don’t remember the story associated with it.”
The informant is my mother. She is Jewish and attended and worked at a Jewish summer camp for most of her childhood. This information was collected during a family zoom call where we were checking in with each other. Tisha’b’av is a Jewish holiday that recounts the destruction of the Second Temple. The date of Tisha’b’av also happens to overlap with the day the Jews were banished from Spain. It is a day of mourning, so observant Jews fast (don’t eat or drink) and adopt a solemn mindset during this day.
While I have never experienced the Zorch, I have been at this specific Jewish summer camp during Tisha’b’av, and it seems like there would be no better day suited to telling a scary story with scary visuals to match. Tisha’b’av is very different from a normal day at camp, and anything out of the ordinary has exponentially more impact on campers on this day compared to any other day. All of the activities are somber, and the content of discussion throughout the day is the destruction of our people. If I had experienced the Zorch, I would have been very spooked. The fact that this doesn’t happen anymore reflects the general trend of camp administrations changing rules to value the physical and mental safety of their campers.