The impact that Jewish camp has is astounding, and there are numerous studies, articles and testimonials that have been widely published over the past few years that back up the research. But let's get personal. As much as I believe in all of that, it runs much deeper for those of us who have experienced the magic of Jewish overnight camping. Camp is home. Camp friends are family. And we cherish those summer days with friends at electives and nights under the stars. Tonight was one of those special nights that I will always remember, and let me tell you why.
This past Tuesday was opening day at Camp Bauercrest. While I'm at home working on a number of exciting projects as we plan for another amazing year at TBE, I also am lucky to get to spend some time back at the Crest after many years away, helping with leadership development and staff training. We have a growing group of boys from TBE who call Bauercrest home during the beautiful summer months on Lake Attitash, and it is very much an added bonus for me to be able to spend some time with them.
Fast forwarding through an amazing (and hot!) day, I was tired. Opening day had gone extremely well, and I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and professionalism shown by the staff. The hard work and visioning that had taken place over the past weeks and months was showing throughout camp. I felt really proud. Campers and staff members were bringing the Bauercrest mission and core values to life in the form of our STAR principles: Sportsmanship, Teamwork, Achievement and Responsibility, through their interactions with each other It was awesome. And then it started to rain. And by rain, I mean downpour. As I walked around camp with other members of the leadership team, we listened as each bunk created their piece of the foundation which collectively will support what promises to be a very successful summer.
Going back to this week's Torah portion, I'd like to zoom in on the part where the sacrificial ritual for all festival occasions is described in detail (Numbers 28:1 - 30:1). Throughout New England, summer officially started for thousands of happy campers with Opening Day at their camp. And while the Jewish people have been camping for thousands of years, that is a ritual that runs about a hundred years deep in our community. Unpacking the car, setting up the area, making sure enough sunscreen and bug spray was packed, meeting new friends and reconnecting with others, the hugs goodbye to family members, all of the "firsts" of the new camp season...the list goes on. It's tradition. And it certainly is a festival occasion. As the first week has flown by and we enter this first Shabbat of the 2013 camp season, let's take a few moments to recognize this special time in our lives.
For parents: don't forget to write! Let your happy campers know how jealous you are of the fun times they're having, and maybe throw in a clip from the sports section, magazine or comics.
For campers: drink the bug juice. Take advantage of the time you have in your home away from home. Don't be afraid to stretch yourself, take chances, and explore who you are and who you want to be.
For camp staff: recognize the significant impact you have as you play the part of the cool, awesome and wise Jewish role model for hundreds of campers and even other staff members. Be present, act and speak intentionally and live through your values. Represent and uphold the mission of the place you hold so dear. And have ridiculous amounts of fun. Soak it all in, and connect your experiences at camp to how you can use them to grow in the other areas of your personal and professional lives.
For myself: be thankful for the amazing opportunities you've had and those that lie ahead.
We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this time of joy.
I'm psyched. I hope you'll join the tradition and go visit camp this summer. Take a tour. Experience the magic.
For more information about why Temple Beth Elohim loves Jewish Camp, visit our Camping Initiative section.
Click here to learn about the different experiences that our local camps are offering for prospective campers to check-out camp this summer...I promise it will be more than worth it! And please be in touch with myself or Hannah if we can help you navigate your family's Jewish journey and suggest some options as you search for your child's home away from home.
Gotta go get ready for Shabbat! Have a wonderful weekend - Shabbat Shalom!