Director’s Blog Summer 2017

28 Jul, 2017
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Check here for a running log of the Director’s Daily Blog:

 

August 7, 2017

 

It’s a great day at camp today – we are celebrating and savoring every last moment before summer ends and the countdown begins again!

 

When camp is such an important part of your life, something you count down to and re-live time and time again through the long school year until finally summer comes again, going home (as much as you love home and family) can be hard.  Campsick is a real thing, just like homesick is a real thing. 

 

Being campsick and being sad to be home doesn’t mean that they didn’t miss you and home.  When kids are homesick, they are often still happy at camp – they truly want to be in both places at once.  I find that “camp sick” is the same. It’s great to be home, with you and family and friends, AND we miss the crazy, ruach-filled community that we have built here in Webster.

 

Camp provides constant spontaneous opportunities to try new things, meet new people, have an adventure!  Also, at camp, campers are responsible to each other and NEEDED in many ways.  Their cabinmates need them for all kinds things – they are an integral part of the cabin team, the play team, the chug team, etc, etc, etc.  At home, they might be needed for your family team – dishes, sweeping, mowing the lawn; or for school’s team – homework, reading, sign ups – but those responsibilities may be a little less joyous and a little less playful. 

 

It takes time to adjust to home.  I have some ideas make “campsick” a little more bearable for you and for them:

 

  1.  Make them responsible for meaningful things.  Consider adding some silliness to family dinners or chores.  Do you have a cheer for mowing the lawn?  Do you play music and dance at breakfast – probably not, but you can surprise them!
  2. Give them space and time to decompress and connect with cabin mates.
  3. Remind them of the key lessons we focused on at camp.  Ask what they are grateful for today.  Ask them about humility, which we define at camp as being aware of how much space we are taking up and taking up the right amount – not too little and not too much.   
  4. Ask them to share their camp stories.  You may have to wait til they are ready to share.  One way to get that happening is to go through the camp photos and ask what they mean.  Maybe go through the blog and ask for their version of the same event (no doubt it will be different than mine!).  Here are some questions to ask:
  • What’s one thing you learned about yourself while you were away at camp?
  • What is one thing you tried and didn’t succeed at?  How did you deal with it?
  • What is one thing that made you think differently about what it means to be Jewish?
  • Did you surprise yourself this summer?  Try something and liked it? Succeeded when you didn’t think you would?  Failed when you thought it would be easy?

 

Thank you for sharing your children with us. Your trust and commitment to this community is so meaningful to me and all our staff.  Speaking of camp staff, when you see one, please thank them.  They work hard, for not much money, and they take the well-being and growth of our campers very seriously.  No college counselor is perfect but Herzl’s are pretty great.  Knowing you recognize and value their work would be deeply meaningful to them.

 

Thank you for reading the blog this summer.  I live and breathe camp and sharing these inside views with you adds to the meaning for me!  FYI – I’ll be at Family Camp through the weekend and then heading out for some R & R, completely disconnected from email and phone.  I’ll be excited to start the countdown and get to work on next summer after August!

 

 

August 6, 2017

 

These last few days of camp include many campwide activities and long held traditions.

Today was B’yachad Town Hall.  This activity is a culmination of many weeks of discussing, investigation and planning by our oldest campers, many of whom have been campers for 6-7 years.  This is their time to tell us how to improve camp for future generations.  We take their ideas seriously with at least one or two being implemented from each summer’s Town Hall.  The campers break into issue groups and develop their ideas and present them to camp leadership. Their presentation includes the impetus for the idea, the problem they are hoping to solve, costs associated and any obstacles to implementation. Today’s Town Hall focused on many practical ideas that would make camp run more smoothly including having campers wear allergy wristbands, creating a comprehensive recycling program at camp and putting clocks in each tzrif.

Kadimah is putting on their play, Grease, in a matinee this afternoon and an evening performance tonight.  The group worked hard to create a wonderful program for all of camp to enjoy.  Every Kadimanik played a valuable role – on stage or backstage – and it showed in the seamless performance this afternoon.  Looking forward to the final show tonight!
Today in Z’man Kodesh, all of camp considered gratitude.  We thought about those who impacted their lives at camp in a positive way and wrote thank you notes to those people. Notes were distributed all through camp today in a beautiful show of gratitude and thoughtfulness.
Right now, I’m off to join all of camp in cheering on the campers and staff in the B’yachad vs. Staff Ultimate game.  It’s always an exciting game and I never know who to cheer for – so I cheer for both teams!

 

August 4, 2o17

 

This is the final Shabbat at camp – often a tearful and emotional time.  This Shabbat is led by our Ozrim.  They have worked hard to create meaningful and interesting programming for all of camp. We are leading discussions and activities that allow campers and staff to reflect on the summer, including the middot we have explored, the friendships we have made, the new things we tried, and the ways we have each personally grown as a result.

 

This week’s parshah is the reading of the ten commandments which define how we live as Jews.  At camp we have certain rules that define how we live too. Part of the magic of camp is creating a world filled with silly and outrageous shtick.  Sometimes when we return home, we miss that special world and can inadvertently make others feel left out by the way we share our feelings and memories of camp.  We are working on helping campers reflect on what they are taking with them from the summer – how those traditions and shtick can inform their non-camp life, rather than focusing on how much they miss camp and feeling camp sick.  I don’t know how successful this effort will be but we’ll do what we can to ease the transition home.

 

BTW, Green Team won…not that it matters!  Did you see our Facebook picture of the winners and losers?  Could you tell the difference?!  Click here if you are not following us on Facebook.

 

August 3, 2017

 

Yesterday was a fantastic day, filled with awesome levels of ruach!

 

Many parts of Bikkurim are honored traditions, unchanged for decades, such as Silent Lunch.  This year, we’ve added in a handful of new traditions that highlight the skill-building work that campers have been focused on this summer.

 

Yesterday’s Bikkurim activities culminated with a new competition – the Rope Burn.  Camper captains and Teva alumni for each team build a campfire and attempt to safely build it high enough to burn through ropes set at different heights above the fire.  This activity rewards campers for learning to build a camp fire and the safety rules required, for their teamwork and ability to adapt to new or changing conditions, and for knowing when to take new approaches to a problem.

 

In yesterday’s Rope Burn, the Green Team’s fire just was taking a very long time to take off.  They were at it long after other teams had completed the activity.  One by one, team captains and Teva alum from all the teams gathered at the Green Team’s site

to help fan the flames until eventually they succeeded.  See the Director’s Favorite Picture which captures this spontaneous and genuine display of sportsmanship and comradery. It was a great example of campers and staff understanding the big picture point of our color wars!

 

There are two other new components to this year’s Bikkurim that I want to share.

 

Philosophy Chug has made its mark at camp and as a result, Debate has been added to the competitions.

 

Recognizing the hard work and diligence of our “Lake Swim” campers, we added a swimming segment to the marathon.  Campers swim out to the inflatable and back as one leg of the race.

 

Learning to cheer each other on, celebrate our victories and move on from our defeats are the great lessons of Bikkurim at Herzl Camp!

 

Tune in tomorrow to learn which team won!

 

August 2, 2017

 

After a reflective and contemplative day of learning for Tisha B’av, today kicks off BIKKURIM – a decidedly louder and ruach-filled day!!

 

Our color wars are a chance brings campers and staff together from different age groups and interests to work towards a common goal.

 

Over the years, Bikkurim has grown and become larger than life!  Special “guest judges” who have been camp staff in recent years come back to camp for the day and join the festivities.  Lots of planning and creativity go into the themes and to the big reveal.  It is great fun and we all love the ruach (spirit).

 

I want to share a little of the back story today: how do we use Bikkurim to grow our campers and staff into the young people who will be leading our communities in not too many years?

 

Bikkurim is ultimately an extended, ruach-filled team work exercise. The program is designed to let an unexpected leader emerge. Staff aim to create competitions that allow campers to shine who might not get that recognition in their daily lives. For captains, we look for campers who show signs that they are emerging as leaders but haven’t quite had that opportunity to be in the lead. 

 

The competitions range from fire building to team plaque to basketball to spelling bee, giving all campers the chance to shine! Creativity and crazy shtick are usually much more important for success than athleticism.  One of the major components of the day is to learn to cheer each other on, our own teammates and our opposing team players.  Recognizing each other’s accomplishments and honoring a job well done is what Bikkurim is all about.  I’ll give you some examples tomorrow.

 

Also, the big reveal is just a few minutes away so you were first to know! I’m off to watch the excitement…

 

August 1, 2017

 

Today we are commemorating Tisha B’av, which marks the destruction of the first and second temples.

 

To acknowledge this fast day, we have altered the schedule much like Shabbat, creating a quiet, reflective day.  Older campers have the option to fast if they choose.

 

Last night we began our observance with a “reverse caravan.”  We dressed in black and silently walked to the basement of the Beit Chai for what turned out to be a moving and meaningful service.  With the lights off and each camper holding a glow stick, three camper read selections from Eicha.

 

This morning we slept in and began the day with a silent flag raising.

 

Our Z’man Kodesh topic is “baseless hatred,” the underlying cause for different exiles and persecutions our people have faced.  Different ages are approaching the topic in different ways. Ha’atid is watching and discussing “Remember the Titans,” the true story of a school desegregation effort.  Yesod and Habonim are learning about and re-enacting different exiles throughout history.  Kadimah and B’yachad are learning about Viktor Frankl and discussing what provides meaning in their lives.

 

For rotations, we have quieter options today – yoga, board games, book club, philosophy chug, and ceramics, where will be making butterflies for our Butterfly Project mosaic.  During tzrif time, we will have cabin activities that will then come together in a campwide art project.  Campers will consider what is sacred in their lives, then write that thing/concept/idea on a popsicle stick.  Some else in the group will then break the stick.  The discussion will be about what it means to lose something important.  All the broken sticks will be gathered, and we will reassemble the sticks into the shape of the Israeli flag.

 

We’ll close the day with a more solemn flag lowering, singing Hatikva for the first time today.  We are planning an end to our observance with a service similar to Havdallah.

 

Being together at camp creates an opportunity to observe Tisha B’av in a meaningful way.  Our shared activities and programs highlights the power of community.  Many campers have told me that “practicing” fasting at camp, gave them the courage and knowledge necessary to succeed at fasting on Yom Kippur in the fall.  While it’s a different day at camp – quiet and reflective – it creates memories and experiences that stick with us over the decades.

 

 

July 31, 2017

 

 

Lots of campers going lots of places today!

 

B’yachad had a teva (overnight camping) last night and today they are floating down the Namekagon river.  It’s great to see how their outdoor skill-building has increased their enjoyment of these nature trips!

 

Habonim and Yesod are on an out of camp adventure to a water park.  This is always a fun day for these programs!

 

The Ozrim left last night for their exchange with Camp Interlaken.  They arrived for an opening bonfire where each group shared their wishes for this new partnership.  They are touring camp this am with their co-Ozrim, participating in a training session together which is co-led by their camp director and our assistant camp director, Simha Cohen, and then spending the afternoon enjoying Interlaken’s waterfront.  They’ll be back in camp in time for dinner.

 

That leaves Kadimah and Ha’atid with the run of camp!  To celebrate, they shared a lot of the day together in special “inter-generational” programming.  This mentoring time helps create that feeling of the Herzl Family at camp and year-round.

 

Looking forward to welcoming everyone back to camp today!  Dinner will feel like the nest is full again!

 

July 30, 2017

 

Shavua tov! The Kadimah led a wonderful shabbat. I am so proud of them. Now, we are rested and ready for a great week!

 

Today I want to introduce you to another of our Vatikim, Dani Frissora.  Dani grew up in Plymouth, MN,  and is now a 3rd grade teacher in Vadnais Heights.  She spent many years as a camper and waterfront staff at Camp Interlaken in Wisconsin.  Dani and her husband Joe (our Outdoor Educator) are here with their toddler Lucy.

 

Dani truly loves the lake and all the sports that go with it!  At the same time, she has a deep understanding of the demands of creating a safe lakefront that every camper can enjoy.  She has focused the waterfront staff on the middah of Seder (order) as a way of enhancing everyone’s opportunity for fun on the lake.

 

As a vatika, Dani’s goal and management style is all about encouraging work that the waterfront staff members can be proud of. Running a safe and vibrant waterfront is hard work, physically and mentally. They are responsible for the safety of a lot of people doing a lot of activities at one time. Staying focused, teaching the rules, enforcing the rules and teaching new skills, like paddleboarding or sailing, gives campers a chance to develop a love for the lake and for nature, as they once did years before.

 

One Ozo, who has been learning how to work on the waterfront told me the other day, “It’s the hardest work that I do at camp, but it’s the work I feel most proud of. I can’t wait to continue learning and growing at the waterfront.”

 

With Dani’s support and management, many campers and staff are getting their life guard training and certificates. Campers are completing “lake swim” where they build up to the long distance swim across the lake.  They are also learning to sail.  On top of that, we are using our wonderfully fun new waterfront “toys” – the inflatable is in constant use and we are loving our floats and log rolls.

 

I really appreciate the balance that Dani has created at the waterfront – our staff have increased their confidence in their ability to create an orderly, safe environment at the waterfront so more kids are getting in the lake!

We’ve got a great team and I can’t wait for another memorable week!

 

July 28, 2017

Another great day in Webster!

 

Kadimah arrived back from their trip! These 3-days in the woods are often Kadimahniks first real camping trip.  This year, they were well prepared by our Outdoor Education staff – that preparation gives them an opportunity for more fun.  They went canoeing and hiking.  Worked together to set up camp sites and prepare meals.   Overcoming fears of all kinds creates an excellent bonding activity for them as a group. This is camp fun and growth at its best!

 

B’yachad, having won the Ultimate vs. Kadimah, challenged the Ozrim to a game on Thursday. It was an epic game – they won by a single point and that last point was scored by a female player. Everyone put their heart and soul into the game and left everything on the field. This tradition of a mixed game (where both female and male players compete together) highlights the best of Herzl Camp. So many important Jewish values are brought out in these friendly competitions – Zerizut (zest and zeal), Courage (Ometz Lev), Grit (Netzach) as well as Humility (Anavah) and Kindness (Chesed

 

Over the last week, all of Habonim and Yesod all went in small groups on tevas (overnight camping). See July 19’s post for what they took from it.

 

The ruach from Ha’atid is out of this world. Teeder Nation is sweeping Herzl Camp! Everything from cabin pride to program pride, our Ha’atid campers are showing their independence, their Herzl pride, and their Zerizut (zest and zeal). 

 

Ozrim have camp all pumped up for their newest “shtick” – Number of the Day! Each day they choose a number and present it to camp, complete with dramatic music. It’s silly and wonderful and purely joyful. 

 

We are turning our attention to Shabbat. We had picnic lunch today, a camp favorite with tuna and egg salad, potato chips and warm chocolate chip cookies.  This simple outdoor meal gives staff time to prep our delicious Shabbat meal and clean and set the Chadar for our Shabbas dinner.  On Shabbat, meals change, friends and siblings who are not in the same cabin get to sit together and catch up on their weeks.  After dinner we have song session – This summer, our Rosh Shira and our Israeli staff and campers have been adding many modern Israeli songs to our traditional favorites.

 

I can taste the matzo ball soup already!  A peaceful Shabbat to all of you!

July 27, 2017

 

Today I want to give you some details on our newest expansion – Mickey’s Mitbach (kitchen).  Our teaching kitchen came together quickly over the winter.

 

More and more of our campers are attending summer cooking programs and showcasing their baking/cake decorating skills as well as watching shows like Top Chef and Chopped.  Our goal is always to add engaging programs that attract new kids to camp and provide important skills.  Cooking is all those things and a super important way to share Jewish culture and traditions.

 

With a generous gift from Harold Smith in memory of his wife, Mickey, who was a consummate homemaker, we were able to build the kitchen and get the program up and running just in time for camp.  We are now teaching 3 chugim a day in the kitchen and two tzrif time activities.

 

Chugim are taught by Chef Phoebe, one of our Vatikim.  Phoebe joins us from California where she is a culinary educator, certified bbq pit master and permaculture consultant.  Phoebe also manages our garden and farm programs.  In chugim, campers focus on cooking basics – how to crack an egg with one hand, how to whip egg whites into a meringue, how to roll out dough, etc.
In the kitchen, we focus on 3 middot – seder (order), zerizut (zest and zeal), hakarat hatov (gratitude).

 

Each chug begins with a blessing that they write as a group. We have blessings for when we begin a meal or begin Torah study, but we don’t have a blessing as we begin to prepare a meal.  Campers put their heads together to consider the right blessing – remembering our lessons when studying the Amidah about what a complete prayer includes (wows, thanks, wishes, and reflection – see blog from June 22 for more).  Each group writes a different blessing to start their chug. Here are two examples:

 

“Thank you, God(dess) for what gives us food, and what helps make food, what we learn in the kitchen, what we share with others, for the wonderful world we live in.  We hope this kitchen brings us happiness and knowledge.”

 

“Thanks:  Thank you, G-d, for the animals that provide us food and hands.
Wow:  We are amazed at how they grow and how we are able to learn to use it.
Wish:  We wish that others are able to share in our food, teamwork and collaboration.
Reflect:  Learning to cook expands our brains.”

 

Our Tzrif times are led by our kitchen volunteers, known as Mitbach Mentors.  We’ve had volunteers each week come and share their specialties. Tzrif times are focused on Jewish food.  We’ve made kugel, kreplach, challah, rugelah…Truly delicious treats that remind us of our roots and traditions and give us space to share stories of bubies and family gatherings past.  Our vision is to grow the Mitbach Mentors into a solid corps of friends at home in our kitchen and at camp.  Is this a role for you?  For your mom, dad, sister, neighbor? Let me know so I can add you to the group as we prepare for next year.

 

I want to take a moment to thank Phoebe and our Mitbach Mentors.  New programs are always a challenge.  An ambitious, entirely new program like Mickey’s Kitchen is a HUGE challenge.  I can’t tell you how much seder, zerizut, and hakarat hatov these terrific friends of camp have brought with them.  I am so excited by the foundation we’ve laid this summer (literally and figuratively) and I can’t wait to see this program flourish in future summers.

 

July 25, 2017

 

We’ve had a fun and schticky day here at camp!

 

Since Yesod missed out on the Fourth of July at camp (since they were still at home), they rectified this problem by holding “4th of Yesod” last night.  They planned and put on a concert at the Mercaz, led by our Shira (music) Team.  They dressed in red, white, and blue, had bomb pops, and celebrated our nation’s belated birthday together!  It was pure, silly, unforgettable fun!

 

Over the summer, we have been fortunate to have many rabbis, cantors, educators and youth directors visit.  It’s wonderful to connect community with camp! They usually bring treats and hold a fun party for their congregants/students in our Gazebo.  But if you are one of our campers who travel to camp from far flung places, you miss out.  Yesterday, Ozo Sonia took it upon herself to address this inequity.  She got on the microphone at lunch and said “I’m from San Francisco and my rabbi has never visited – if you are like me and don’t have a rabbi to visit, join me in the Gazebo for treats and fun!”  I love the initiative, the creativity, the making lemonade out of lemons that this demonstrates!  It’s a great example of how camp gives kids space to problem-solve and how they thrive within that space.

 

B’yachad is putting on a carnival in Webster today, partnering with the Burnett County Family Resource Center to provide a day of fun and entertainment for kids who live below the poverty line here.  We’ve been doing this for several years as part of B’yachad’s service learning curriculum.  New this year, they used Mickey’s Kitchen last night to make cakes for the cake walk! 

 

The carnival fun will continue when they return to camp.  Tonight, they will put on the same fun and games for the Ha’atid program.  This shared programming with older and younger campers builds community and connections that, as they age, creates the Herzl Family.

 

Habonim went on a teva last night, camping in the woods on our property.  They used compasses to navigate to the site, set up tents, built fires, and helped cook their own meal.  These trips help campers develop an appreciation for nature and confidence in their abilities to manage new situations and challenges.

 

Kadimah is on their canoe trip and are returning tomorrow.  We are very excited to hear about their adventures!  I’ll update you tomorrow with some details of their trip.

 

Have a wonderful day…we sure are!

 

July 24, 2017

 

Yesterday was a beautiful day at camp!

 

In our commitment to “intergenerational shared experience” (the fancy words for schtick), a younger camper got up at lunch and said the dreaded word “Announce…” With that, the staff burst into the “announcem…” song and the camper was carried off to be soaked by the hose (the modern version of being dunked in the lake).  We realized halfway through the song that the nearly all the campers didn’t know the words and didn’t know the tradition.  So at dinner, we taught the song and the lore in a call-and-response fashion.  It’s great to keep all the Herzl traditions alive!

 

Kadimah is leaving on their canoe trip today.  They have been working hard with Joe, our Outdoor Education director, to prepare themselves (I highlighted Joe in a blog last week).  Kadimahniks have been learning to paddle, to right a tipped canoe, to build a fire, set up a tent, etc.  This trip into the wilderness provides a shared bonding experience and for many is their first multi-night nature trip.  It’s wonderful to see their appreciation for each other and the natural beauty around them when they return!

 

Last week, I started highlighting key staff, our Vatikim (experienced ones).  Today I want to introduce you to Liz Paige our Director of Jewish Education.  Liz joins us from Salt Lake City where she is responsible for ethics, culture and Shabbat observance in a K-8 charter school that is based in Jewish values.  Liz has a masters in Jewish Education and is working on certificate in Israel Education through the iCenter.  Her 27 years in the classroom in Jewish settings give her a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from at camp.

 

Liz has been working with our staff all winter and is now leading us in an initiative that weaves the weekly parshah into activities and lessons throughout the week and in all areas of camp.  When campers arrive at services on Shabbat they are already familiar with many aspects of the portion and services have become more meaningful and introspective as a result.  Liz is also adding meaning to many longstanding traditions such as the singing of Hatikvah at Flag each day.  She realized that while campers knew most of the words, they did not have much context for the Israeli national anthem.  Drawing on the first-hand knowledge of our 16 Israeli staff and 12 Israeli campers, we began regular learning on Hatikvah.  We have discussed things like:  when and how is the anthem sung in Israel, who wrote it and when, and when was it adopted as the anthem in Israel.

 

We are so appreciative of the work Liz is doing and her embrace of Herzl Camp’s traditions and ruach!

 

July 21, 2017

 

This week has been chock-full of milestones, lessons, and experiences. Ha’atid Bet, Yesod, and Habonim arrived and settled in to camp life. Kadimah climbed the wall (7:21…7:21…7:21!). B’yachad won the annual Kadimah vs. B’yachad Ultimate game.

 

Now we are getting ready for Shabbat.  At camp, Shabbat is a beautiful time for reflection. Our schedule changes to slow down the pace of camp life, we sleep in a bit on Saturday morning, and we spend a bit more time schmoozing in the chadar as we enjoy our Shabbat meals. We encourage our campers to take a few moments to reflect on the past week.

 

This week’s middah (soul trait) was integrity. We defined integrity as doing the right thing when no one is watching. In the Torah portion we will read this Shabbat, Matot-Ma’asei, we study what it means to make a promise or commitment. The portion outlines different promises that are made and how to handle it if they are broken. At camp, our campers and staff are asked to make commitments all the time – to each other, to the community, to themselves. However, camp can sometimes be a tough place to be – surrounded by people all the time, feeling tired or run-down, going full speed ahead almost every day – sometimes it can be hard to keep the promises or commitments we make. The question that we’ve asked this week is “even when life at camp isn’t rainbows and sunshine, how do we behave towards each other”?

 

This week, the menschlikeit behavior of our campers and staff truly shined. As the new campers arrived, the welcome mat was rolled out with warmth, caring, and grace. We’ve seen returning campers welcome new campers in like long-lost friends. They have shared and explained camp traditions so that all can participate. As Kadimah climbed the wall, we saw all of camp come and cheer them on, celebrate their achievement and support their efforts. It wasn’t about the other campers, but the whole camp was there to let Kadimah know that their accomplishment was our accomplishment. During the Kadimah vs. B’yachad Ultimate game, we saw sportsmanship rule the day: cheers, handshakes, fair play, and integrity on and off the field.

 

As we begin Shabbat and I reflect on the deep, meaningful conversations and actions that our campers and staff have been sharing – talking about keeping promises, doing the right thing and treating each other fairly and kindly – I know there can be no more rewarding job!  Helping the next generation become menschlikeit adults is a great reason to go to work each day!  Thank you for giving me and our 140 staff that opportunity!

 

July 20, 2017

 

Yesterday was a big day at camp – Kadimah climbed the wall!

 

Our 109 Kadimahniks worked together to make it over the wall in 7 minutes and 21 seconds.  This tradition is a rite of passage at camp.  It signifies their coming together as one cohesive group, knowing each others strengths and weaknesses and using that knowledge to work together as a community toward a common goal.  Also, it’s really fun!  They demonstrated compassion for those who were nervous and uncertain, they showed kindness to those who struggled, and they celebrated their shared victory.  This is the first of several iconic community-building traditions in Kadimah – their canoe trip and their play are coming up soon!

 

In other news, our second group of Israeli campers from Sderot arrived on Tuesday, joining the returning Israeli campers who are in the B’yachad program.  This unique program truly brings Israel alive at camp, giving our American campers a chance to get to know and understand life in Israel through the eyes of a friend.  When the kids boarded the plane in their camp shirts, the pilot noticed and asked where they were headed – “Herzl Camp” they said.  The pilot’s kids had gone to Herzl many years before so he took special care of the kids during the flight and escorted them personally to our airport volunteer, Jory Herman.  I am always inspired when I hear from campers and alumni who are wearing Herzl gear far from home and make a connection with a fellow member of our Herzl Family!

 

Because this story so perfectly illustrates three out of five of Herzl Camp’s Core Values – I’ll share them with you:

 

  • We make connections and nurture our Herzl family.
  • We are pluralistic in our Judaism; we embrace the people, the land and the story of Israel.
  • We provide tools, training and the opportunity to lead; transforming campers and staff into tomorrow’s passionate Jewish leaders.
  • We celebrate individuality and inclusion; encouraging everyone to be part of something bigger than themselves.
  • We embrace ongoing and inter-generational shared experiences – from the ridiculous to the sublime – to foster lasting friendships, build identity, community and a sense of belonging throughout our lives.

 

And, in my mind, the “We” in those is all of us – you, me, our campers, our alumni, our volunteers, our donors, our staff – “WE” do all those things together!

 

I’m feeling incredibly grateful for the Herzl Camp k’hillah (community) today. Thank you for being a part of it!

 

July 19, 2017

 

Camp is actually made up of departments that as a whole deliver the camp experience – health services, food service, cabin life, Judaic/Israel education, and specialty areas like waterfront, outdoor education, arts, and sports.  This year we’ve added some key leaders, who we are calling Vatikim (experienced ones) in roles at the waterfront, outdoor ed, and Judaics/Israel ed.  Over the next few days, I’ll be highlighting some of these staff and department, their goals for the session as well as the Judaic focus or the Middot that each area is highlighting through the summer.

 

One of these key leaders, Joe Frissora, is a high school teacher in Osseo.  Joe is at camp with his wife Dani who is also a teacher and is directing our waterfront as well as their toddler Lucy.

 

Joe is heading up our outdoor education department, helping us to increase our camper’s time and comfort in nature.  Our key goals for this area are to build up our campers and staff skills for successful overnight camping, and to instill an appreciation and understanding of nature so that campers may choose to spend more time outdoors at camp and at home.

 

Joe’s many years of experience in nature started as a child living in a wooded area, spending time fishing and hunting with his dad and grandpa.  In college, Joe sought out opportunities to be in nature, getting a parttime job at the Outdoor Experience Center in Eau Claire.  Free time for Joe means hiking, canoeing, fishing!

 

Joe has redesigned our overnights and trip prep to involve and engage campers in every aspect of the trip.  They meet to plan and assign responsibilities for each area – the packing, the navigation, the set up, the cooking etc.  Everyone has a role and everyone has a responsibility.  They learn to use a compass and find their way to the site.  They practice setting up tents and building fires.  They learn about hazards like ticks and poison ivy – how to prevent and manage these in an educated way. They learn to tell time and direction from the sun and stars.

 

Growing up in the suburbs and at Herzl, I don’t have a lot of experience in the outdoors.  But like our campers and staff, I’m working on it.  Here’s a little nugget that I learned in Joe’s Nature Survival Chug – There are 4 essentials for survival:  air, shelter, water, and food. If I were lost in the woods, I now know to apply the Rule of 3.  You can survive 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water and 3 days without food.  Campers learn this and then learned how to collect safe water, how to build a fire and build a shelter from what they can find in the forest, how to forage for food and trap animal they could eat (but we don’t, so please don’t email me – we “trap” them with a photo trap and then discuss the rabbits, deer, foxes, and raccoons that we’ve “trapped.”)

 

As a Vatik, Joe has the perfect understanding of what his role is – “I’m providing tools and knowledge that I’ve developed over many years so that our campers and staff can succeed.  I know I’m doing a good job when they are having a great time and I’ve faded into the background and no one notices that I’m there!”

July 18, 2017

Today, we welcome 200 campers for 3 weeks at camp!  When the buses roll in, we will gather in the George Kaplan Ulam to ring in our final session of 2017! 

 

Campers will learn who their counselors and bunkmates are and then go on a tour of camp, finding all the important things like their cabin (tzrif) where their luggage will be waiting for them, the bathroom (Haks), the marp (infirmary), the dining hall (Chadar) and the waterfront.  Swim tests will be taken so that we know each camper’s skill and comfort level in the water.  Later tonight, we will share our hopes for our time at camp during a bon fire at Ner Howie. 

 

This day can be both exciting and nerve-wracking for campers and parents – we know that transitioning from home to camp is a big deal!  Here’s how we help campers with the transition:

  • We help them acclimate with clear instructions, even for returning campers, that provides them the camp rules, expectations and processes. This gives campers comfort in knowing what’s going  on and provides some processing time for them to remember and adjust to this environment.
  • We play name games to help cabinmates get to know each other in a fun way.
  • We introduce key staff that campers will see or may need help from over the session – people like their program directors, the camp photographer, the waterfront director, marp (infirmary) staff, our kitchen director, our Camp Care Team staff and me!
  • We close the day with a bonfire where we share our hopes and wishes for the session. This gives each camper a positive focus as they head off to bed in their cabin for the first time.

B’yachad and Kadimah enjoyed intersession with fun at camp including a hilarious game of slip-n-slide kickball – a new game at camp, time at the waterfront enjoying the cool clear lake on some hot days, a photo scavenger hunt and extended minuha for some much needed catch up sleep.  Intersession is always a fun time to do some special activities! 

 

HUC and Teva Adventure campers who are staying on for three more weeks at camp filled their time with lots of fun camp games.  It is always great to have a small group because we can do so many special things that can’t be done with full programs.  They went to town for mini-golf, had movie night, and played a game that I love called “dogs of war.” It’s like capture the flag with a twist. Each team builds a camp fire and the opposing team attempts to win by putting the fire out with water balloons and squirt guns. 

 

Thank you for sharing your children with us.  Cabin photos will be posted later today and cabin lists will be emailed.  I hope you follow along with us through my daily posts and that you find time to rest and recharge while your kids are at camp. 

 

July 16, 2017

 

Shavua tov!  It was a beautiful Shabbat here at camp led by our staff.

 

Today is a big day!

 

Our Tasters, HUC and Teva Adventure kids are heading home after a week of great camp fun!  The Taste Performance was ADORABLE as it is every year!  As you are welcoming your Taster home, here are some questions to ask that might get them talking about their camp experience in more detail:

  • What is one new thing that you tried and loved?  What one new thing you tried and found hard?
  • Did you learn something you want to teach to your siblings/parents?
  • Did your cabin have a Toran Wheel? What chore did you like? Dislike?
  • What is one activity that you did at camp that we don’t do at home?  If you were going to do an activity every day at camp, which would it be?
  • What was Shabbat like at camp?

 

This afternoon we are welcoming family and friends of our 9th and 10th graders for Visitors Day.  We changed to Visitors Day only for the 5- and 6-weeks programs about three years ago and it has been a great success.  A visit from home during a 3-week stay was hard on campers and parents.  Our older campers rarely have trouble moving right back into their camp routine as soon as their family leaves.

 

Looking forward to seeing our camp families this afternoon!

 

 

July 14, 2017 

 

It’s a beautiful sunny day here at camp!  After a buggy cookout, we are looking forward to picnic lunch in the bright sun!

 

Teva Adventure returns this afternoon before Shabbat.  They have been hiking in Cascade River State Park in northern Minnesota for the last three days. We’re excited to welcome them back for Shabbat at camp. 

 

Kadimah has been in camp for a week and a half now.  As we all remember, going into 9th grade is a tough time – lots of change in your body, in your school, in your social circle, etc.  The Kadimah summer at camp brings together boys and girls in a more unit-wide programming (vs programming that is focused on a cabin group).  Much of the curriculum focuses on developing the social skills and values that create community and reward menschleheit behavior – even when your parents aren’t watching! 

 

The Kadimahniks had a great program this week about how words hurt – each camper wrote down hurtful words, crumpled the paper and then tried to smooth the paper back to flat.  We then discussed how the words can’t be taken back even when you try to make it right.  We’ve been working with friend groups to encourage mingling with new and different pairings.  We’ve created new round-robin seating at meals with table talk games that encourage getting to know people better. The big unit-wide activities of preparing for their canoe trip, practicing for their play and climbing the wall are all shared experiences that create common bonds and allow our 9th graders to shift away from “middle school behavior” to more kind and community-building choices.

 

Though we know that a summer at camp can’t change the reality of this hard time of life, our curriculum is designed to provide tools and opportunities for campers to better handle themselves and those around them.  I really appreciate how our college-age staff work with this age group and know they get great satisfaction with each small victory that moves the group toward a cohesive whole over the 5-week program.

 

May you all enjoy a peaceful Shabbat!

 

July 13, 2017 

 

Lots of fun things happening at camp!

 

Just to give you a little flavor of how our campers bring their ruach (spirit) to camp and make Herzl uniquely their own each summer, here’s a few program highlights:

  • Golf chug leaves every morning for the neighboring golf course in our mini-bus.  Arriving on time is key to a full chug at the course. Not only are they on time now, they’ve brought their schtick, dressing up in their “golf attire”, plaid shorts, bright shirts.  It’s hilarious to see them line up for the bus!
  • RAOK (random acts of kindness) chug decided to write “welcome” notes to each Taster. The handwritten notes welcomed each first-time camper to the Herzl Family.
  • Kadimah/Byachad has started a “Big/Littles” program within camp.  Each older camper is paired up with a younger camper. They’ve been sending notes, sharing meals and evening programs to get to know each other and increase our feeling of community (Kehillah.)

 

B’yachad has been active in Burnett County.  They went to Interfaith Caregivers and stacked wood for the winter heating program, which provides firewood at no cost to low income families.  They also went to a nearby nursing home and played board games and visited with these homebound elderly folks.

 

Yesterday, The Windchill, Minnesota’s professional Ultimate team spent the day with us at HUC.  They ran drills and scrimmaged with the HUC campers.  In the evening, they played an intense showcase game against ozrim and staff and ended with a bonfire with the HUC campers.  One Windchill player fell so in love with Herzl that he’s committed to coach at next year’s clinic!

 

Mickey’s Kitchen is a big hit with campers and staff! We’ve had 3 volunteer educators join us so far – Cindy Witkin, Jenna Anderson, and Karen Frankel.  Cindy taught the kids kreplach and kugel.  Jenna made challah and babka as well as tabouli from Margie’s Garden’s produce. Karen Frankel taught us to make all kinds of delicious cookies and breads.  Kitchen educators are coming up once a week for the rest of the summer for 2-3 days at a time.  If you are whiz in the kitchen and like to teach, this might be the Herzl Chaverim (our volunteer corps) role for you! Let me know!

 

Tonight is cookout – our specialists will be making us burgers and hotdogs.  We’ll be eating, schmoozing and playing some games in the sports field on this beautiful night!

 

July 12, 2017 

 

Ok. I know I say this a lot, but WOW! These past two days have been incredible! Let me catch you up.

 

Our Taste of Herzl campers (“Tasters”) have dived right in to camp life! Everything from learning Herzl traditions and songs to climbing the rockwall (check out that Photo of the Day!) to learning about social responsibility and planting trees here at camp to singing the Shehechiyanu each time they do something new! It is amazing to see each and every Taster test out their independence, make new friends, and become comfortable with their summer home.

 

Teva Adventure has already hit the trail! They spent their first day at camp coming together as a group and building the trust that is needed on an adventure. On Tuesday morning, they headed out early to get a jump start on the hiking! Before leaving, each camper was asked what they were nervous for, excited about, and hoping to learn. While there were certainly some hesitancies, the campers were looking forward to overcoming their fears, getting outside their comfort zones, and eating delicious food! They arrive back at camp in two days and I can’t wait to see how much they grow!

 

The first ever Herzl Ultimate Clinic is kicking tuchus and taking names! Over the past two days, the team has explored integrity and community mindedness through the lens of Ultimate, learned to throw and catch a disc, practiced offensive skills, and have built meaningful relationships as a team. They are getting hands-on training from our staff and coaches and learning to accept guidance and direction. Seeing these campers gain new skills in such a short amount of time is awe-inspiring!

 

Kadimah is working diligently on their play, Grease. They are learning songs and dances, building sets, planning out costumes, and working on blocking. Everyone has a role in the play just as everyone plays an important role in Kadimah. As our first session and second session campers come together, they are learning about each other and the responsibility that they have to the group. It’s really beautiful to see!

 

Social responsibility is also being highlighted in the B’yachad program through multiple community service projects throughout Burnett County. The campers are exploring service learning and partnering with local agencies to make a positive impact on the community. As a long-time resident of Webster, WI, Herzl Camp takes pride in our relationships with our neighbors and we work hard to give back. The B’yachad campers become the “face” of camp out in the community and share their gifts in meaningful ways. Yesterday, in my yoga chug, one B’yachad camper expressed that he was grateful for the opportunity to volunteer!

 

I’m not sure that it can get much better than this…

 

July 10, 2017 

 

Today our Herzl Ultimate Clinic (HUC) begins.  This new one-week specialty program immerses campers in the sport of Ultimate Frisbee and in Jewish values.  The campers in our first sports-clinic will split their day between skill-building and team-building activities.  They will join the rest of camp for meals and evening programming for a real Herzl experience.

 

We are focusing on four Middot (values/soul traits) that fit well with the “Spirit of the Game” that is central to Ultimate.  Spirit of the Game requires self-officiating based on integrity and fair play.  The Middot we are highlighting throughout the week are integrity, zest and zeal, community-mindedness and leadership.

 

Our HUC coaches play on collegiate-level teams and our HUC leader is playing professionally for the Minnesota WindChill.  We’ve worked USA Ultimate to create this unique curriculum.  Herzl has long been known as “that Ultimate camp,” and now we really are!

 

Teva Adventure also arrives today for a week of wilderness exploration.  They will be in camp working on survival skills for two days, then heading out with our wilderness outfitters for 3 days in the northern Minnesota deep woods.  They return to camp to share Shabbat with us on Friday.  This is our second year of this specialty program.  We love getting our middle-schoolers comfortable out in the natural beauty that surrounds us!

 

Our youngest campers, our Tasters, arrive today, too!  We have 64 3rd and 4th graders arriving to try out Jewish overnight camping. These brave adventurers will rotate through all of Herzl’s programming and activities – rock wall, waterfront, the farm, sports, arts and crafts, Herzl traditions and Jewish life. They will end their week with the iconic Taste Performance that all of camp looks forward to all summer.  Our Ozrim (counselors-in-training) planned their week’s fun and will introduce them to our ruach-filled community!

 

I’m excited to get going on this fun week!

 

July 9, 2017 

 

Wow! What a whirlwind weekend. Teva Trek led Shabbat.  They did a beautiful job weaving our week’s theme of community-mindedness into their service leading and discussions. It was amazing to see how much they’ve grown in just the last week since they returned from their Voyagers National Park trip.

 

In addition to our pre-shabbat tree planting (which was a first for us in a long time!), we had another first this shabbat. Our Russian staff and campers created a fantastic shabbat program and invited all interested friends to come learn about Russian culture.  Over a traditional Russian tea time, they learned some Russian words, some songs, and some traditions that help create their community connections.  It a great idea and we loved learning more about their homes and families.

 

Last night was our closing bonfire for Teva Trek, Ha’atid, and Tzofim.  We gathered together and a representative of each cabin came forward to share a favorite memory, something they were especially proud of, or something they learned in their time at camp and are excited to take home with them.  It ranged from silly cabin jokes to a sense of accomplishment after completing a full lake swim, to the pride and joy of having met new people and tried new things.

 

My message to this group was that through the ups and downs, laughter, exhaustion, and even the “camp crud”, I was blown away by how much they had grown over these three weeks!  The time flew by and it was wonderful to see each of them become the best version of themselves here in this special place.

 

Today is a quiet day camp as we prepare for the arrival of Taste, Teva Adventure and the brand-new Herzl Ultimate Clinic.  Kadimah and B’yachad are in chugim today.  Our intersession campers who are waiting for their specialty weeks to begin are doing laundry and getting the special treat of being just a few kids in camp for a day – always a great time to get to know staff and have a little extra love and attention!

 

Can’t wait for our Specialty Campers and Tasters to arrive tomorrow for a week of FUN!
July 7, 2017 
Hello from Webster!

 

Today we are starting a new program in collaboration with JNF. Each summer, campers will be planting trees at camp and learning about JNF’s Israel programming. It is a great way for campers to “leave their mark” at camp, learn about Israel and help us reforest our beautiful facility.

 

Tzofim’s Tzrif Kaf woke up early and kayaked out onto the lake to watch the sunrise. A beautiful way to start the day! Kudos to them for taking the initiative!

 

B’yachad returned from their teva…a little early due to heavy dew. Before they were interrupted they hiked Ely Peak and made themselves a delicious trail meal.

 

Kadimah has arrived and settled in. Last night they learned that their play will be Grease. Today they are having their first canoe practice in preparation for their 3-day canoe trip.

 

The Ozrim have been diving into how to be great counselors. Last night they learned and practiced how to respond to common cabin/camper issues and concerns. They are working hard to be great staff next year!

 

Teva took a break from their Shabbat planning for a fun afternoon in town. The Logistics Team has ordered extra tissues to prepare for their last Shabbat as campers…

 

We’re enjoying a little break from the heat – hope you are too!

 

Shabbat Shalom!
July 6, 2017 
Another sticky day at camp!

 

This summer we have been refocusing our programs to include wilderness experiences and providing the skills necessary to enjoy overnight camping – fire building, outdoor cooking, tent set up.  Camper’s begin overnight camping (Tevas) in 7th grade with an overnight trip to the woods within Herzl’s 120 acres. The trips grow in length and expand to some of the beautiful state and national parks with a few hours of Webster as campers age.

 

Some have asked why this is an important part of our programming.  Many studies show the power that time in nature has to calm and focus our brains and reduce anxiety.  This week, Teva Trek has returned from their 7-day trip through Voyagers National Park and I joined them to reflect on their trip.  Their words really tell the story of why wilderness trips are critical to camp’s programming.

 

One Teva Trekker said “I learned that I’m not afraid.”  When I asked more about that, they continued, “I learned that I can do hard things.  I can trust myself and when I think that I can’t do something, I can always refocus, try another way.  I know now that there’s always a next step after ‘I don’t think I can.”

 

We offer two wildness programs – Teva Trek for 10th and 11th graders and Teva Adventure for 7th and 8th graders.  Teva Adventure arrives next week for a 1-week adventure with a 3-night trip.  Teva Trek is planning and preparing for the Shabbat they will lead tomorrow before heading on their final bus trip home as campers on Sunday.

 

Today in camp we have our American Camping Accreditation review. This is a thorough all-day inspection to verify that we are upholding all the standards of the American Camping Association.  Herzl Camping has been accredited for more than 6 decades now!

 

To read past blogs, click here.

 

July 5, 2017 

 

Good morning! Yesterday was a great day at Herzl. Our RuachFest celebration was made even more fun and meaningful by a “write to a soldier” activity and a live band!

 

We had a first here, too: Yesterday, we were “shopping” for produce for Mickey’s Mitbach and what did we decide to do? Head over Kibbutz Golda (our farm) to see what we could use. There, we were met by Farmer Madeleine who gave us a tour of the herbs, spices, and vegetables that were ready for harvest. We walked away with green onions, mint, basil, and parsley!

 

Once harvested, the campers and staff headed back to Mickey’s Mitbach to make our first tabouli salad (an awesome Israeli dish). Campers used their seder (order & organization) skills to make the salad and even showed hakarat hatov (gratitude) for the food that had been grown right here on the property. Pretty awesome stuff!

 

Today we are back to our camp routine and implementing our “stay hydrated” rules for high temps and humidity.

 

July 4, 2017 

 

Returning to camp today after a couple days off.  So excited to be back at camp in time to celebrate the 4th of July!

 

On the 4th, we dress in our best red, white and blue outfits and put on a parade that rivals any that you’ll see today!  Floats are decorated, bands play…it’s a patriotic display like no other!  I love it!

 

As we hit July, we are entering into a welcome warm up!  We are ready to dry out and start really enjoying our new waterfront toys!  As the temperatures increase, we take some precautions to ensure that everyone stays hydrated and takes some breaks in the shade or air-conditioning.

 

Tomorrow, our 9th graders arrive for 5-weeks in Kadimah.  This is a big year, the time when campers begin to transition away from cabin-based activities to program-wide activities.  In Kadimah, we focus on teambuilding and developing a sense of community.  Some seminal camp traditions happen – the Kadimah Wall, when the whole program works together to climb a 10 ft vertical wall in record time, they work together to put on the Kadimah play on the last Sunday of camp, and take a 3-day canoe trip, which they prepare for by learning to build fires, cook outdoors and put up tents.

 

I hope you enjoy a safe holiday with family and friends.

 

July 3, 2017 – Assistant Director’s Daily Blog

 

This is Simcha Cohen, filling in for Drea who is enjoying a day off today. So for today, this is the Assistant Directors Daily Blog…

 

In case you haven’t met me yet, this is my second summer at Herzl Camp. This summer, the whole Cohen Family is busy at camp – my wife, Julie is putting her years in classroom inclusion to work as our Inclusion Director and my son Rory is pioneering in our new Gan (daycare). Julie grew up in Minneapolis so returning with our son and one on the way has been amazing for our family!

 

Like Drea, I’ve been at Jewish camp for most of my life – I grew up at Interlaken, where my mom still a seasonal assistant director. For the last few years, I’ve been assistant dean at a pluralistic Jewish Day School in Boston and just completed my Masters in Jewish Education last May.

 

Ha’atid has an awesome evening program last night! It was GIANT board game night, with life-size Jenga and human-version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Nothing says fun like human Hungry, Hungry Hippos!

 

Tzofim spent the day breaking world records in the annual Guiness Book of World Records day. Afterwards, Tzofim girls went on their first teva (overnight camping). They were successful at setting up their tents and starting their fires and loved the food they made for themselves! Tzofim boys will be heading out soon for their first camping trip.

 

B’yachad has a schticky day planned with a program-wide LARP (Live Action Role Play) adventure.

 

We are looking forward to Teva Trek’s return later today from their 7-day trip through Voyagers National Park. I’ll fill you in on their adventure tomorrow.

 

Ozrim are rotating through their tracks again today – kitchen, office, yearbook, program planning for Taste, Executive Director shadowing and maintenance (see the Maintenance Track in the Assistant Directors Favorite Picture – that’s me in the middle).

 

Today in Z’man Kodesh all of camp is learning about Hatikvah. Different age groups are discovering what the Hebrew means in English, who wrote it, when it was adopted, etc. Our Israeli staff are informing the conversation with their knowledge of daily life in Israel. For campers, singing Hatikvah is part of our daily routine at Flag. For Israelis (like Americans), the national anthem is more for special occasions and ceremonies. At camp, Hatikvah is a daily reminder of our connection to Israel.

 

I’m off to a Fourth of July planning meeting – looking forward to schticky celebration!

 

July 2, 2017

 

Camp crud.  Oy.

 

We live in close quarters at camp, sharing meals family-style, squeezing a cabin onto one bench, holding hands in caravan…Germs spread.  This week, it has been heaving dewing more than we’d like and we’re spending more time inside together.  All this means, the Camp Crud is going around.  

 

Most of you probably know that we have a pretty significant inclusion program which includes medical supervision of chronic illnesses like diabetes, etc.  With that, comes a 24/7 medical staff of nurses and doctors and an air-conditioned Marp (infirmary) that is similar in size to the local clinic here in Burnett County.  When we end up with the sniffles or a cough, we pop over to the Marp, a doctor checks us out and maybe we sleep over in a comfy bed to catch up on our rest while an RN checks in on us.  While it’s worrying for your child to be sick and away from you, having a doctor monitoring your sniffles is pretty reassuring!

 

This week’s parsha, Balak, helps us focus on community-mindedness.  In this portion, Balaam is set on cursing the Jewish people and instead, blesses them.  Along the way, he travels with a talking donkey who sees the angel of God before his does.  It is easy to see the bad but we are rewarded by seeking the good in our community.  This little bout with Camp Crud fits nicely with this week’s portion.  It’s easy to see Camp Crud as a curse but it can be a blessing.  We take time to take care of each other; to accommodate people’s needs for rest; and we consider how our actions (hand-washing) affects the whole community.

 

The Ozrim led their first Shabbat this past week and did a beautiful job preparing the services and activities to illustrate parshat Chukat.  In keeping with theme of being open to the Journey and being grateful for the Journey, their Havdallah took us on a journey from the Chadar to the tennis courts where we said Havdallah under the stars. Their planning and creativity brought the week’s parsha to life and integrated all the lessons of the week.  I was very proud of their coordination and teamwork!

 

Today, I’m riding the bus home with our Noar campers.  We are so sad to see them go!  I’m looking forward to checking in with them on the ride – I’m excited to hear their reflections on 2 whole weeks away from home.  Tomorrow, Assistant Director Simcha Cohen will fill you in on all that is happening at camp.

 

June 30, 2017

 

Last night was our Thursday night cookout!  While our kitchen staff get the night off, our specialists cook burgers and hot dogs on the sports field.  We eat outside, schmooze and play games. It’s a nice change of pace in the middle of the week.

 

The Noar Talent Show was amazing!  About 15 “acts” signed up for a performance – some individuals, some groups.  There were dancers, singers,

mathematicians, musicians, and more.  More important than the performances, the campers supported each other, cheered and encouraged each other, and tried something new in bravely signing up for an act.  They also showed their initiative and cooperation skills in creating their acts and practicing for the show.

 

We are now getting ready for Shabbat.  This week’s parashah is Chukat. Moses’ sister, Miriam, passes away and the water source for the Israelites dries up. Thirsty and mourning the loss of Miriam, the Israelites kvetch to Moses. In a moment of frustration, Moses strikes a rock twice to bring forth water.

 

While we may not be in a drought like the Israelites, we are starting to think about Noar leaving us and how we will miss them! Also, we certainly all know what it is like to be frustrated. After 10 days at camp, we may feel a little tired, in need of some personal space, and are craving sunshine! Our lessons this week focused on what we do when we are frustrated, how to say goodbye to our friends, and how to show gratitude for what we have. We have much to be grateful for and listing our blessings can be a blessing unto itself!

 

I’m putting up two photos in my Favorite Photo Section – One of the B’yachad rings painted in handprints on their Moadon floor which I referenced yesterday and another of the Noar campers showing their support for each other’s performances in the Talent Show.

 

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom! We are grateful to spend this time with your children on the shores of Devils Lake.

 

June 29, 2017

 

It is a busy day here at Machaneh Herzl!

 

Tzofim is taking their first out of camp trip for a day at a water park. This is a fun tradition that campers and staff look forward to each summer!

 

Noar, our 2 week program for 4th & 5th, “escaped to Israel” for their evening program last night. Tonight, they are putting on a talent show. They’ve been getting to know each other and developing self-confidence and comfort in the camp environment. We see that in the many, many sign ups for the Talent Show from all kinds of campers! It should be a very entertaining evening!

 

Two of our Israeli staff planned a “visit to Israel” for Ha’atid. At Beersheva, they learned about David Ben Gurion and even practiced his infamous headstand! At the Kinneret, they explored the water system and did a water relay activity. At Massada, they did silent team building games and learned about the significance of that site. In Tel Aviv, they played Matkot – like table tennis without the table. In order to get from city to city, they paid with the appropriate number of shekels (shekalim) and snacked on hummus and pita for sustenance. It was a FANTASTIC experiential introduction to Israel.

 

The Ozrim started their learning tracks yesterday. Kitchen track made breakfast for camp yesterday morning – it was delicious! Maintenance track picked up garbage throughout camp. “Executive Director track” reviewed camp’s budget and assessed a site for a future building project. Chinuch track met with Liz, our Director of Jewish Education, and got the scoop on our new curriculum’s focus. Logistics Track helped organize today’s chugim and ran attendance for Chug Aleph. They also learned what it takes to prepare camp in case of emergencies. Other groups shadowed Farmer Phoebe and our Program Directors. The Yearbook track has almost finished Noar, Ha’atid and Tzofim’s books! Ozrim will rotate through these tracks and more throughout the summer.

 

B’yachad has started chugim and last night they painted the floor of their Moadon (clubhouse). They put all of their handprints in the shape of

SONY DSC

B’yachad’s logo – the three interlacing rings that represent the mission of B’yachad: Community Service, Leadership, & Teamwork.

 

We are hoping for a sunny day, but either way we know it’s going to be a great one!

 

June 28, 2017

 

B’yachad arrived yesterday afternoon!

 

Our 10th graders started their 6-week session with an opening night bonfire (a new camp tradition). They sing songs and share wishes before turning in for the night. Each tzrif chose two campers to share their wish for the summer and then throw a stick into the fire to represent the wish. Some wishes were to be fully present in this special summer, leaving the pressures of home behind. Some wished to have the courage to try new things. Some wished for a chance to set aside their preconceived notions about each other and get to know each again as their current selves.

 

My wish for B’yachad is that their time here creates a permanent connection so that they leave a little bit of themselves here in their second home and take the lessons they have learned in their second home with them as they venture out into the world.

 

As their 6-weeks continues, Yachers will dive into service learning, leadership development, and activities that develop “community-mindedness.” They will work on service projects in the local community and at camp, including a carnival for kids in the surround county and a huge day of fun for younger campers. They will form committees to advise camp through the B’yachad Town Hall. They will head out of camp for overnight trips for fun and service.

 

B’yachad is a year of significant growth for our campers and I can’t wait to see the great things B’yachad 2017 does! Thank you again for sharing your children with us. We are honored to be part of your village.

 

June 27, 2017

 

It’s a beautiful sunny day here!  After the amazing schtick and ruach of Bikkurim, we are back to our routine today.  Before I share what’s happening today, I want to call out some highlights of Bikkurim.

 

First, FYI, Yellow Team won, but winning is never really the point!  It’s all about the creativity, team work, leadership, and schtick.  As with our programming this summer, we are bringing fresh ideas to our beloved traditions.  For Bikkurim, this meant new activities and schtick at a new level.

 

Our focus on developing outdoor skills was evident in the tent-setting-up challenge and the “Rope Burn.”  Rope burn rewarded teams for their fire-building skill.  The first team to build a fire tall enough burn through two ropes (one at 2 feet above the fire and one at 4 feet above the fire) wins.

 

Herzl’s great love of schtick was evidenced in the marathon.  Runners had several stops along their way to the finish line.  They stopped in our new library and waited for the Librarian to tell them, “Shhh, this is a library.”  Next stop required the runner to put on a dramatic reading of Shakespeare.  The leading team nearly lost the race because their performance was so dramatic!

 

Another amazing Bikkurim is in the books and we are back to our daily routine…

 

Campers have selected and begun new chugim today. We have some fun new ones starting today – Golf, Woodworking, Random Acts of Kindness, and Songwriting.

 

Looking forward to our B’yachad (10th grade) campers arriving this afternoon!

 

June 26, 2017

 

B-I-K-K-U-R-I-M, Bikkurim! B-I-K-K-U-R-I-M, Bikkurim!!
Color wars. Herzl Campers and staff take the idea to a whole new level! It is great fun and we all love the ruach (spirit). I want to share a little of the back story today: how do we use Bikkurim to grow our campers and staff into the young people who will be leading our communities in not too many years?

 

Bikkurim is ultimately an extended, ruach-filled team work exercise. Our color wars are designed to let an unexpected leader emerge. Staff aim to create competitions that allow campers to shine who might not get that recognition in their daily lives. For captains, we look for campers who show signs that they are emerging as leaders but haven’t quite had that opportunity to be in the lead.

 

The competitions range from fire building to team plaque to basketball to spelling bee, giving all campers the chance to shine! It is a day that brings people together from different age groups and interests to work towards a common goal.

 

I’m off to check out the marathon prep! Be on the lookout for Bikkurim pictures tomorrow.

 

June 25, 2017

 

Shavua tov (a great week to you!). We had a beautiful Shabbat here at Herzl Camp and I thought I would share some of the best moments with you.

 

As I mentioned earlier, we studied the Amidah during the week and wrote our own personal prayers.  As those personal prayers were handed back out during services we all looked up to find HEAVY DEW! Not missing a beat, our campers and staff danced in the rain and then caravanned back to our Beit Chai basement with the Torah to continue our services.

 

Last week’s study (Parshat Korach) gave us an appreciation of opposition and patience as Moses was challenged by Korach with regards to his leadership. Both appreciation of opposition and patiences were on display during the week!  One camper even told me that the biggest thing he learned this week was that you can disagree without arguing.  We explored that theme in a variety of ways, including through music that highlighted disagreeing but not arguing.  Those songs then were played by our Rosh Shira (songleader) during Friday night song session – a time for camp to sing and reflect together.

 

Today is all about returning to our routine after Shabbat. We pick back up with chugim, tzrif (cabin) time, and regular meals. The clouds are breaking now and we are looking forward to a great day!

 

Here’s the dear old Herzl,

 

Drea

 

June 22, 2017

Another great day at camp!  Today, I want to introduce you to Z’man Kodesh, our daily sacred time.  Being at camp is a sacred time in and of itself, and then within this really special time, we set aside a daily window to celebrate and explore the sacred around us, within us and within Jewish tradition.

 

This week we are focused on the Amidah, the “standing prayer” or “the prayer.  In it, we praise God, ask for health, peace, understanding and intelligence, and end with a time of personal prayer or reflection.  This prayer includes our wows (praise), our wishes (asks), our thanks, and our reflections. This week’s activities are designed to impart to campers that formula: prayer = wow + wishes + thanks + reflection.  Today, campers each took time to write out their personal prayer.  On Saturday, when we stand together at the Mercaz, each camper will bring their personal prayer to say and reflect on during the personal prayer portion of the Amidah.

 

Also, you may realize that it is heavy-dewing here today.  (It never rains at Herzl Camp, just heavy dew!)  Thankfully, we have indoor space to move activities inside and put our creativity to work on fun and games inside.  Later, we’ll put on the rainboots and do some puddle-jumping!

 

June 21, 2017

 

Wow! Day three has been so incredible. I had the chance to pop in to a variety of different chugim (activities) and tzrif (cabin) time programming. Here are a few quick things that I think might brighten your day!

 

I stopped by Kibbutz Golda (our farm) to see kids dividing up and taking on the daily responsibilities with zerizut (enthusiasm). Our future farmers were

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happily working with their hands, problem-solving ways to ensure the crops were receiving the resources they needed to grow, and taking ownership over the space! The group that was tasked with caring for the goats said, “It might be gross, but it’s fun and awesome”! Does it get any better than that?

 

My next stop was the Tennis chug. Campers were learning forehand and backhand strokes with their chug leader. They were being coached on proper technique and received feedback on their form. One Noar camper hit the tennis ball out of the court for the first time. A little long, but a great start!

 

I then headed over to Archery. They were doing target practice and getting used to the safety measures in place. The respect and order that the campers showed one another was beautiful to see. And I won’t be surprised if there are a few sharp shooters at the end of this week!

 

From there I went to the Outdoor Adventure chug where one of our trippers was teaching the basics of fire-building. Two different groups were able to get their fires started during the activity! Our campers showed true patience and persistence…and the teamwork that was needed to get those fires started was pretty awesome too.

 

My last stop this afternoon was Israeli dancing. Two of our Shlichim (Israeli staff members) were teaching popular Israeli dances to a whole room of 7th grade girls. The music, the moves, and the energy got everyone up and dancing. It was such a seamless integration of Israeli culture that it brought a tear to my eye.

 

I feel incredibly lucky that I get to see all of this in action every single day. Please continue to follow along to live vicariously through your kiddos. 🙂

 

June 20, 2017

 

Day Two is off to a great start after a smooth first day. My favorite part of yesterday was a new tradition…a campwide bonfire! Campers and staff shared their wishes for the summer, we sang songs with our songleader, and welcomed the new summer with the Shehechiyanu prayer (the prayer for bringing us to this moment).

 

Today is all about getting into the routine of camp. This morning, campers and bunk staff are creating their Cabin Brit (agreement). They discuss and decide what it will take to live together harmoniously for the session and put it down in writing. Some things they commit to are the “toran wheel” (cabin chores) as well as how we respect each other’s space, how do we talk to each other and how do we include each other. The Cabin Brit builds individual camper’s resilience and responsibility and teaches important skills about living in community. (I’ll try to get a picture of a Cabin Brit for you later today for the Director’s Favorite Picture in the lower left of this page.)

 

After this morning, we dive right into 3 daily chugim (activities). Campers selected their top chug choices yesterday and today they start. They find the location, meet the specialty staff and begin the learning and exploring! They’ll go to these chugim for a 5-6 day period and then select new activities for the next week.

 

Throughout the day, campers are getting into the routine of camp life – breakfast, lunch, nosh, dinner, personal nikayon, tzrif time and lights out. This routine provides a base for campers – like the comforts of home, but away from their home. I find the stronger the routine, the fewer cases of homesickness, nerves, or ‘acting out.’ If a camp director were a Super Hero, routine would be my special power!

 

June 19, 2017 – The First Day!

 

 

The first day of camp…

 

Whether you had 1 first day of camp or 5 or 15 or like me, 22, it’s a big day in your life.  The excitement, the anticipation, the nerves…for the campers, the staff and the parents, today is a big day.  Campers came to camp from all over the country and arrived a few hours ago.  Most of their trips went smoothly, most will make fast friends with a new bunkmate or reunite with an old friend, and most will barely remember today’s nerves in a day or two.  With the help of dozens of volunteers, our summer and year-round staff, and of course our camper parents who have been prepping their campers for weeks or months, the first day is busy, but smooth.

 

Although, in my many years at camp, some of the best camp stories have been about the not-smooth arrivals… Like the girl, now decades ago, who was mistakenly assigned to a boys cabin.  She had never been to camp before and didn’t know what to do, so she sat down on a bunk and cried.  Not too long later, a kind male camper came in and seeing the crying girl, helped her gather her trunks and took her to the director.  She was happily resettled into a girls cabin and the summer went on.  The reason I know that story is that now, many decades later, that kind boy is married to that crying girl…As much as we work to avoid bumps in the road and smoothly settle each camper in, sometimes it’s the bumps that are the important part of the experience!

 

Today, our campers were welcomed to camp in the George Kaplan Ulam, as it has been done for many decades.  From there, cabin assignments were announced and cabin photos are taken (lists and photos will be posted this evening).  After luggage is taken to the cabin, campers went with their cabin on a tour of camp.  They found the marp, the bathroom, the dining hall – all the important things.  They took their swim test, are getting to know each other and their counselors and settle in.  Finally, we will gather for our first meal, spaghetti, of course!

 

I want to thank our many volunteers and staff for their work preparing for this exciting day!  We’ve been busy putting the finishing touches on many new activities and facilities – archery, pottery, teaching kitchen, a whole new waterfront entry and decking, and are launching an amazing inflatable water obstacle course this week.  The lake level rose dramatically over the last year, destroying our decks, sheds, and paths and we’ve been rebuilding as fast as we can since the ice went out in May.  In this case, this new beginning is going to be great fun for our campers!

 

Off to the our first dinner together!

 

 

June 7, 2016
Summer is here! This year we are introducing a new camp-wide curriculum that draws activities and lessons from the week’s parashah (Torah portion). This holistic, coordinated approach is new for camp and we’ve been working on it all winter! We are so excited to bring this model to camp – it provides a shared theme, direction and motivation for us all.

 

As we created each week’s curriculum, we were consistently struck by how perfectly the week’s portion fit with the happenings at camp that week.

 

This week, our hanhallah (senior staff and supervisors) have arrived for a week’s training and preparation before the staff arrive on June 11 and campers arrive on June 19. The parasha, Be’ahalotecha, is about the Levites, who serve the priests at the Tent of Meeting (later the Temple), and were charged with preparing the tabernacle so that all Jews could have a place to gather and offer sacrifice.

 

 

“This is the rule for the Levites. From twenty-five years of age up they shall participate in the work force in the service of the Tent of Meeting…” Numbers 8:24

 

Every tribe had a specific role or job in the community and each role was critical to the success of the community…just like camp.

 

One tribe were farmers, one were the merchants who took the goods to market. The Levites had an elevated role as stewards of tradition, as those charged with preparing and keeping up the mishkan (tabernacle or the place of gathering).  Because of their work, everyone in the community had a space to come together.

 

This week, as our hanhallah have gathered to prepare ourselves and camp for the campers, we are asking ourselves what do we as the supervisors, the stewards of this gathering place, what are we tasked to do?  Like the tribes, our job is different than other camp staff – bunk, kitchen, marp (infirmary), office staff – and each of our roles is critical to a successful summer at camp. Like the Levites, we are the stewards, the supervisors of this space and we are tasked with creating an environment where all can gather as a community to worship (and live and play and learn!).

 

This week, we are preparing ourselves for the task. We started by taking and understanding the Strengths Finder assessment to determine what gifts we bring to the task individually. Then we began creating rituals to bring us together as a unified community and to keep us moving forward in unison through the summer.

 

We have created a brit (agreement) with each other to guide our conduct and enumerate our goals. We also created a weekly ritual for our tribe, the hanhallah, to begin Shabbat with – one that reminds us of our brit and our task to prepare and keep this space so that all may gather.

 

As stewards of the journey that is camp, we have also explored t’fillat ha’derech (blessing for the travelers) which seeks a safe journey and asks to be shielded from robbers. We’ve asked ourselves what troubles do we need to be shielded from on our camp journey? What robs us of our emotional and physical strength, our patience, our kindness, our creativity? What can we do to shield us and our campers from those challenges? What can we do to shield and protect our patience, strength, kindness and creativity?

 

Each week, we’ll be sharing the parashah with you and how it is shaping and informing camp’s activities – be that in sports, or the teaching kitchen, in Bikkurim or in the Kadimah play. I’m excited to share this journey with each of you – our alumni, our parents, our staff, and our campers – each of our tribes have an important role to play in a successful summer!

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