Director’s Blog 2018

13 Mar, 2019

Check here for a running log of the Director’s Daily Blog:

January 23, 2019
This month of Drea’s Director’s Blog has focused on finding “groundedness” in the mishugas (craziness) of camp life.

We wanted to share some survey data with you that might make you say: Wow! That’s amazing!

Last summer, 87% of our families who took the survey told us that our tzrifim (cabins) were EXCELLENT as compared to a much lower number in 2017.

This kind of jump usually only happens when a camp rebuilds or builds new cabins.

The reason for our jump this year…drumroll please…the return of RATE-A-ROOM! This daily competition for the cleanest tzrif builds group pride, self-reliance, and creates a healthier and more grounded experience.

Each camper has a role and a responsibility within the tzrif and they work together to make it happen.

Of course there are incentives, both weekly and for the cleanest tzrif all session, but the incentives work and I am not above bribery!

Our campers feel more grounded because they know where all of their belongings are. The tzrif gets along better because there is order and structure. The staff rooms are even a part of it so everyone is accountable!

That 87% 5 out of 5 rating is exciting, but not quite as exciting as seeing meaningful change at camp that helps our campers function more successfully in a communal living environment and teaches them important life skills.

We can’t wait to see who wins cleanest tzrif in 2019!

January 11, 2019

Feeling grounded in Israel: Camp Friends are the Best Friends!

Camp has always been about the relationships. The friendships and connections that are made at camp run deep and strong. I was reminded of this during the past week in Israel. While interviewing our new Mishlachat (delegation), I got to spend time with shlichim from past years. The stories they shared about their camp memories highlighted the connections they feel with each other, their American peers, and the camp community. It was beautiful and obviously brought a tear to my eye.

This summer at camp, we will spend time sharing our stories. We believe that personal narratives shed light on our similarities, bridge our differences, and build respect and connection.

Campers and staff can expect to find this narrative-sharing in their tzrifim (cabins), during Z’man Kodesh (Jewish exploration programming), on Shabbat, and for Kadimah & B’yachad, during their k’vutza (group) time. There will be formal times and informal times. One time stories and on-going stories. Close-up and far away.

Are you ready to tell your story???

January 4, 2019

Happy 2019! I wanted to share our new year’s resolution: creating a grounded experience at camp.

We hear all the time that camp is SO FUN and also seemingly “organized chaos.” It’s time to bring some seder (order) and grounded-ness to the chaos through intentional programming, rituals, and even schtick (fun/silliness).

The way our chadar (dining hall) and meals run to the cleanliness of our cabins to the way our campers sign up for their chugim (activities) and the list goes on and on. It all impacts the ways our campers and staff interact with and navigate camp – and life.

As adults, we know that structure and order are helpful. Turns out, it’s more straightforward to enforce order in a household of 3-5 than it is in a communal living environment of 500+ people at any given time. Ya coulda fooled me!!!

So we’re taking a look at all of it and asking ourselves, “How can camp feel like camp and also encourage a feeling of having two feet firmly planted on the ground?” When we can accomplish this, we know that our campers – and even our staff – will feel more confident to take on whatever comes their way, live in the moment, and truly enjoy the FUN that is camp without the chaos.

This month I’ll be sharing several ways in which we already do this and other areas where we need some help brainstorming.

Here’s to a grounded year!!!

December 21, 2018

This month of _Mah Rabu_ (finding the awe in awesome-ness) blogs has turned out to be such a treat!

This past week we had the pleasure of joining Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day school students for lunch and got to hear about their own _Mah Rabu_ moments from this year. The thoughtfulness and joy that these students bring to the world is AWESOME!

THEY are our _Mah Rabu_ from this past week. Thank you Heilicher! Keep appreciating the awe-some.

December 9, 2018

MAH RABU (mah rabu!), MAH RABU (mah rabu!), Mah rabu ma’asecha adonai!

We sing this song on Friday night at the mercaz (our outdoor prayer space). All gathered together, dressing white, ready to welcome in shabbat.

The song, a catchy little tune, is sung right before the the Amidah and comes from Psalm 104:24. Here’s the full text: Mah rabu ma’asecha Adonai kulam bechachmah asita malah haaretz kinyanecha – How great/many are Your deeds Hashem, All of them You have made with wisdom –the earth is full of Your creations.

This song/psalm is often said upon seeing something AWESOME, something that the Jewish philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel would say elicits “radical amazement”!

We decided to add this song into our camp prayer service right before the Amidah so that we can all take a few moments to think about the radical amazement that we experienced that week at camp. One camper from each age group is selected by their Rosh (unit leader) to share their Mah Rabu moment in front of camp and then we invite the rest of the community to think about their own Mah Rabu moment during the silent portion of the Amidah. It. Is. Awesome.

This time of year, Hanukah, reminds me of the Mah Rabu moments that are acknowledged throughout the summer. With each candle, we shed new light on our lives. Moments of awesomeness. Moments of thoughtfulness. Moments of bravery. Moments of growth.

One of my favorite Mah Rabu moments happened today – our 500th camper signed up for summer 2019! This is 500 campers who will get to find their own Mah Rabu moments this summer and practice the skill of being “radically amazed”!

What are you Mah Rabu moments – either at camp or at home? I’d love to hear them – either via email at or feel free to send us a photo or short video via Facebook. We’ll share them over the next few weeks leading up to 2019!

And as you celebrate these final few days of Hanukah, I leave you with this comic. A reminder that we can find the awesomeness — the miracle — in the smallest of things! 🙂

November 25, 2018

We have been conditioned to be grateful during this time of year – Thanksgiving. It’s part of our American culture. It’s beautiful to see families come together and share words and acts of gratitude towards each other and, for many, their communities too.

While the food is a little different at camp during the summer than it is at our Thanksgiving tables, this time of year always reminds me of camp. “Hmmmm, Drea, that’s kind of strange. Can you say more about that?” Sure thing! Glad you asked. 🙂

Each day, our community comes together for meals. We start and end the meals with blessings – Ha’motzi to begin and one of three forms of Birkat Ha’mazon to end. These blessings provide us a time, each meal, to be grateful for the food we have, to those cooked it, and for the community we have to share it.

I also think about Mah Rabu – the prayer for upon seeing something awe-inspiring (or AWESOME!). Each Shabbat, as we gather at the Mercaz (our outdoor prayer space), one camper from each age group is selected to share an awesome moment that they experienced that week. From making a new friend to seeing a beautiful sunrise to noticing a weird bug that they’ve never seen before, our campers consistently find what Abraham Joshua Heschal called “radical amazement” in their daily lives! The exercise of acknowledging these moments gives us all an opportunity to pause and be grateful for the awesome-ness right in front of us.

There are approximately a million more examples that I could give you, but let me say this. I recently celebrated my 10th year working at Herzl Camp in a professional capacity (my 5th year as Camp Director) and the gratitude that I feel for this community grows each year.

Our campers and staff take time to show hakarat ha’tov (gratitude) at camp. I see them learn the skills and rituals to help them pause, reflect, and be radically amazed. Then I get to see and hear about them expressing gratitude throughout the year – on Thanksgiving and a regular Thursday.

I am incredibly grateful to you – our Herzl Camp k’hillah (community). You send your kids to camp, support camp as donors, work at camp as staff, participate actively in camp activities – and it all helps us build a generation of people who are caring and grateful for what they have.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Here’s to Dear Ol’ Herzl!

November 9, 2018

This past week, a long list of Herzl Camp stakeholders have come together.

On Saturday, November 3 close to 400 people came to celebrate camp in our annual event, Music in the City. Each year, we bring in a musical guest and bask in the glory of camp’s ability to build community and bring people together, especially through music. Alumni, camp friends, and investors in camp’s future all show up to celebrate together.

On Sunday, November 4 Executive Director, Gary Kibort, and Assistant Camp Director, Simcha Cohen, took to the sky for two different visits. Gary to the JCamp180 conference and Sim to Tulane University and Indiana University.

JCamp180 is a division of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, an organization that has been providing fundraising and strategic planning support and training for many years. Each year, they put on a conference for camping professionals and lay leaders to hone their skills, network with each other, and provide input to the field of camp fundraising and development.

Simcha’s college visits are not meant for him to find a school of his choosing (he already did that…GO BADGERS!), but rather for him to get a chance to meet with/check in on/build relationships with our college age staff. Going to visit and treating them to a meal or nosh is a highlight of our jobs. We get to see how their year is going, chat about camp, get them excited about all the awesome things camp is working on for next summer, get their input on new initiatives, bring them along to recruitment events…the list is never-ending.

And now Dani and I are on our way to visit our midwestern communities! Kansas City, Lincoln and Omaha, NE, and St. Louis. Check out all the awesome things here.

Our camp community is growing in such meaningful ways and we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it and be a place that brings people together.

Follow our adventures on our Instagram @officialherzlcamp or Facebook.

SHABBAT SHALOM to our whole community.

November 2, 2018

This has been an emotional week.

At the end of last week, we announced (ANNOUNCE) an incredibly generous gift that will create a 5-star waterfront at Herzl Camp. Our eternal gratitude to Elliot and Marlys Badzin for their vision and commitment to camp!

That was followed by an article in TCJewFolk about the Keshet Leadership Project. A project focusing on helping organizations more effectively open their doors to LGBTQ+ humans. We are beyond honored to participate in because it will help us live our values in a very meaningful way.

Then Saturday happened. The Tree of Life – Or L’Simcha Synagogue was attacked. As was my hope and confidence.

In the midst of the vigils and the emotional processing and the rallying of the community, we also completed our first round of early bird registrations (400+ campers registered for summer 2019 so far!) and prepared for our annual benefit – Herzl’s Music in the City.

The juxtaposition of such deep grief with sincere celebration of our organization is a bit like emotional whiplash. I’ve spent most of the week reconciling between sadness, anger, fear, and immense gratitude, pride, hope for the future.

Here are the times that this crazy place has brought a smile to my face and confidence to my relatively bleak outlook:

The Ozo Program
We missed last week’s entry of “Mah Zeh?! What is that?!” about the Ozo Program and I am sorry about that! We will revisit that program many times over the course of the year to highlight what the program is about and the amazing people that make it happen.

In the meantime, let me tell you how, in the past week, these young adults have shown more pride in their Jewish identity than I thought possible. Registration for the Ozo program closed on October 31.
With a full cohort of applicants, we are seeing our rising 12th graders volunteer in their communities, take on leadership roles to stretch their skills, put together learning opportunities for themselves to continue their own Jewish education, proactively reach out for feedback on their resumes, and build community wherever they go.

They are doing this all with the lens of their Judaism. They are prioritizing a summer at Herzl, a place that is uniquely and immersively Jewish. They are not afraid to show their pride in who they are, but rather are excited to teach the next generation how to have pride, confidence, and humility simultaneously.

Summer 2019 is going to be amazing because of their excitement and zeal (zerizut).

400+ Campers already registered
There are close to 300 families who are committing to teaching their children about living a Jewish life. They are entrusting us with their kids and I am deeply humbled by the faith that our families put in us each summer.

With the state of our world right now, I can think of no better mission than to impart on this next generation the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World). Our k’hillah (community) is committed to raising a generation of active community members, compassionate leaders, and proud Jews.

If you haven’t yet signed your child up for camp, there are still spaces in all programs (but they are going quickly). Click here to register

If you have any questions about camp, please contact me at or our Family Experience Manager, Dani Frissora, at

Herzl’s Music in the City – Coming up this Saturday, November 3rd and with an almost sold out event, a good solid celebration of the awesome things about camp over the last 72 years is just was the doctor ordered.

This event has always centered around music because there’s nothing quite like music to bring evoke memories of camp. This year, we are lucky to have KT Tunstall performing!

This year, we also have a Herzl History exhibit on display highlighting our 72 years in existence. Everytime I think about the toils of our founders, I get emotional. They fought anti-semitism to be able to purchase the land that camp sits on. I’m sure there were times when they weren’t certain if being open of our Jewish identity was dangerous or not. They held strong to their beliefs that when young Jews can be confident and proud of who they are, they can do amazing things in the world.

All proceeds (and the proceeds are no small amount!) go towards camp programming, scholarship, and inclusion. What could be better than that?! Do you have your ticket yet?

And now we celebrate!

October 23, 2018

Welcome back to our next edition of “Mah Zeh?!” – This week we are covering our Teva Trek program.

For a quick recap, so far we have dived deep into our 9th & 10th grade programs:

Rising 9th grade – Kadimah – means “moving forward”
Rising 10th grade – B’yachad – means “together”

These two programs build on each other and create environments where your children explore their Jewish identity both individually and as part of a larger group.

Today we are covering our smaller, lesser known program for rising 10th & 11th graders, Teva Trek (hebrew for “Nature Trek”).

Here are the logistics:
Who: Rising 10-11th graders
Length of Session: 3 weeks
Dates: June 25-July 7
Tuition: $3,990

Let’s dive in!

In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv explores the relationship the current generation has with nature and the impact that relationship has on their development. His basic message is that learning to appreciate nature does wonderful things for children, especially in our tech connected world, and that spending time in nature helps kids learn to care about their natural surroundings. Win-win!

Our Teva program is based on this research. The goal is for our oldest campers in camp to get into nature, build a connection to their natural surroundings, and build confidence through learned skills.

In their three week session, Teva campers are truly trekking through the experience! They are brave explorers doing the following things:

Live in platform tents: For those that grew up at Herzl, they have most likely only lived in a cabin here at camp and slept out in a tent 2-3 times. Teva campers live in elevated platform tents. No electricity. Just the campers and their staff. It puts a different spin on the camp experience. Watching the campers adjust to their living space is amazing to see as they gain an appreciation for the things they have, realize how much they can do with just a few things, and the confidence they build in their own abilities.

Trips out of camp: Teva campers spend about two days per week on day trips out of camp. Whether it’s at Camp St. Croix’s high ropes course or a one-night overnight near Duluth or a trip to a local farm to learn about sustainability, our Teva Trekkers are always on the go.

Explore the natural world through a Jewish lens: Nature can be a very spiritual place as a Teva campers often learn. In this day and age, when they are surrounded by technology, media, and information all the time, spending their summer days unplugged in the woods brings new perspectives. Teva campers experience outdoor education from trained educators on such things as edible plants, animal tracking, Leave No Trace practices, and many others.

And of course, there is the jewish lens. Trekkers may learn to pause, take a breathe, and notice unusual things – and there’s a prayer that goes along with that! They have many moments where they are trying things for the first time and say the shechiyanu. They learn the tenets of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and how they can be stewards of the planet.

Put their camper experience and leadership skills into action: By planning activities for the younger campers, Teva Trekkers practice the “see one, do one, teach one” method of learning. My favorite example of this is when Teva hosts younger programs in their living space out in the woods for a meal – showing them how accessible nature can be and how to effectively make a meal outside of the comforts of a well stocked kitchen. All through their own experiences.

Last week’s torah portion was Lech Lecha, the one where God tells Abraham to pack up his life and head into the unknown to find “a land that I will show you”. This portion always reminds me of our Teva campers. Trekking into the woods, not always sure of where they are going, but trusting their gut, their training, and their new-found skills to help them guide the way.

As a quick note – a disproportionate number of Teva Trek alum work their way to our leadership staff. The leadership they learn while in this program is so valuable not only to our camp community, but to the individuals themselves.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, many campers view their B’yachad summer as their “final summer at camp”. I would encourage those who are still deciding their summer plans check out Teva Trek. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.

This coming Friday we’ll dive into the OZO PROGRAM!

P.s. We are getting close to the end of our $50 Early Bird Discount. Sign up by October 31 to get the discount ($50 per child!). Click here to register.

P.p.s. Our annual Music in the City concert is right around the corner and there will be a handful of past Kadimah, B’yachad, and Teva Trek campers there volunteering. If you have any questions about these programs, you could always ask them about it during the evening! Get your tickets here.

October 12, 2018

Welcome (or welcome back!) to our weekly blog! We are currently in a series called “Mah Zeh?! What is that?!” – a deep dive into terms and ideas that we throw around casually, but require (and deserve) some further explanation. This month is a dive into our teen programs (rising 9-12 graders).
Last week we covered Kadimah – our 5-week, rising 9th grade program.

This week…(drumroll, please)…B’YACHAD!

Here are the logistic details:

Who: Rising 10th graders

Length of Session: 6 weeks

Dates: June 25-August 6

Tuition: $6,150

Herzl Camp has a proud tradition of building future leaders for the Jewish community. Beginning in the middle school years, our curriculum incorporates leadership development. After a summer of growing pains and bonding together as a group in Kadimah, the B’yachad campers (called Yachers) are presented with leadership opportunities at camp, left and right.

While Kadimah has a host of big ticket programs, B’yachad’s focus is on small group experiences in three different realms – Leadership, Community Services, and Unity/Teamwork.

Let’s dive in!

Leadership (in Hebrew: manhigut):

Every Yacher is given a variety of opportunities to explore their leadership style. Here is just a sampling of the leadership roles each Yacher has available to them during their session:

Planning and leading various elements of B’yachad Shabbat. This is the same as Kadimah, however, with a year under their belts, the Yachers are given more freedom to put their Judaic ritual and teaching skills to work.

Execute evening programs for their peers. By learning how to create a program, plan for all of the details, and execute it with confidence, our Yachers are preparing for leadership roles with their youth groups, work experience with children, and future camp counselors!

Serve on the Teen Tzedakah Board. Did you know that Herzl Camp runs a Teen Tzedakah Board?! Approximately 20 Yachers are given the opportunity to create a grant-giving entity that provides real funds ($500 given at their discretion) to organizations that speak to their board’s mission. And yes, the Yachers go through the process of creating a mission statement and reading Requests for Funding (RFPs). How awesome is that?!

Become a Big Brother or Big Sister to a 5-6 grade camper. B’yachad runs a big brother/big sister program called “Chaverim” (hebrew for “friends”) for our Ha’atid campers. They spend time together during meals, tzrif (cabin) time activities planned by the Yachers, and continue to make the Herzl connect strong through individual relationships.

Sharing feedback with the Herzl Camp Directors. At the end of their summer, we host an event called B’yachad Town Hall, a time for the B’yachad campers to share create ways to improve camp for future generations of campers. Having been at camp for six weeks (and possibly years before that for many of our campers), the Yachers have a unique perspective on camp. Then they get up and present those ideas in a professional and respectful way. This is one of my favorite programs at camp!

I could go on and on…

Community Service:

After Kadimah, where campers explore their relationship to and roles within their group, B’yachad focuses on their relationship and roles as young Jews within the larger community. What better way to do that than participating in service learning?

In small groups, the Yachers go out into the Burnett County Area and learn what it means to help the community where you live. Packing and distributing food at the food shelf, building connections at the local senior living facility, stacking firewood for residents in need, cleaning and preserving the local historical site. It’s amazing to see the kids come back to camp feeling more connected to and educated about the Burnett County area – a place that they’ve spent many a summer, but know very little about. It is an eye-opening experience for them.

B’yachad campers earn 25 hours of community service experience throughout their six weeks at camp. A letter is made available to them after the summer should they need those hours for an application or school group.

<strong >Unity & Teamwork:

Through their shared experiences leading the camp community and serving others, the Yachers learn that we really are better TOGETHER. The word B’yachad means “together” and our campers learn that it does, in fact, take a village to make the world go round.

B’yachad’s logo looks like this:

The three tenants, or rings, of B’yachad (Leadership, Community Service, and Unity) all weave together together to make a whole, stronger community. See what we did there?! Weaving the rings together…very cool!

We often hear that Kadimah is “the BEST summer at camp” and while it may be their best summer YET, we believe the growth that occurs during B’yachad summer is enough to tip the scales. The Yachers walk out of the summer more confident versions of themselves, more conscious of their actions, more socially aware. They go home and want to get involved in new things. They want to make an impact in their home communities. They have a community of camp friends from around the world that are there to support them. And they are ready for the next step in their lives.

The B’yachad program is typically seen as the “end of my camper career.” Many campers choose to take a year off from Herzl as a rising 11th grader. However, did you know that Herzl ALSO has a program for rising 11th graders? Next week we will explore that program known as Teva Trek.

We’ll see you back here next week! Shabbat Shalom!

p.s. What’s that you say? You didn’t know all of this about B’yachad and now you want to sign your kid up? Awesome –  Here’s the registration link!

p.p.s. Speaking of community service/volunteer hours, we need some volunteers for our Music in City event on November 3! Know anyone? Send Holly Guncheon an email –

October 5, 2018

Kadimah, B’yachad, Teva, Ozrim…oy vey!

So many program, so many names. If you don’t know the name of the program your kid is in, you are not alone!

This month, I’m diving deep into our high school programs to give you a sense of what each one is all about. While at camp, your child is doing a lot of pretty cool things that strengthens their character – even if sometimes the stories that come home sound like silliness, or downright malarkey! This series, called Mah Zeh?! (What is that?!), is meant to help you translate what your kid is telling you.

This week’s Mah Zeh?! is focused on Kadimah. Kadimah is the first of our “leadership development” programs. As your camper prepares to enter 9th grade, they will spend the summer practicing anavah (humility), areyvut (community mindedness), netzach (grit/perseverance) and derech eretz (decency and social intelligence).

Here are the logistic details:

Who: Rising 9th graders

Length of Session: 5 weeks

Dates: July 2-August 6

Tuition: $5,640

Here’s what they do in those 5 weeks:

– Practice, create, and perform the Kadimah play. All campers take on a role in the play whether that be on stage, lighting, costumes, sets, or assistant stage manager. Rehearsals run for the first 4.5 weeks of the session and the play is then performed twice during the final week – once for the younger kids and once for the older kids.

– Participate in a three-day, two-night canoe trip in Northern Wisconsin. Campers practice their canoeing and camping skills at camp and then put those skills to use on the river (either the St. Croix or the Namekagen depending on river conditions). The trip is run by our experienced tripping team and the campers are expected to actively participate in setting up camp, cooking the food, and safely navigating the river.

– Climb the Kadimah Wall. The ultimate teambuilding experience. A 20 foot vertical wall where campers and staff work together to hoist each other up and over. The experience is timed, so if you hear 9th graders chanting a slew of numbers you’ll know where it comes from!

– Participate in regular, daily chugim.

– Explore their identity as young Jews within a community. Campers spend time engaged in conversation and programming around what it means to be a Jew to them individually and as part of a larger k’hillah (community). They demonstrate their learning by planning and leading a Shabbat for all of camp.

Now here’s why we do it:

The Kadimah Play: We’ll be the first to admit it. Herzl Camp is NOT a theater camp. The Kadimah Play is very much an amateur production. The goal of putting on a play is much more about accomplishing something together and sharing that accomplishment with the rest of camp.

The Canoe Trip: Time spent in nature with only your peers can be very powerful. We have seen the fruits of this each summer. Campers sitting around in small groups, talking animatedly about their lives – connecting in person, feeling empathy, seeing and hearing one another – without the distractions they are used to or the regular routine of camp life.

Then there’s the pride that the campers feel upon completing the trip! I mean…wow! Regardless of the weather or the challenges they may have faced, there are always stories of how they “survived” the canoe trip together. “We cooked over the fire for ALL 100 people!” “We were paddling into the wind for 4 hours! We couldn’t have done it without everyone working together in the canoe.” “I slept in a tent for 2 nights. I’ve never done that before!”

The Kadimah Wall: Done in the middle of the session, the Kadimah campers don’t know the exact date of the climb. We do this intentionally to allow our campers to focus on building connections before being asked to literally put themselves in someone else’s hands. Because the date is a surprise for the campers, we see all sorts of emotions when the time comes. Excitement, nervousness, trepidation, bewilderment…you name it! Campers are seen pumping each other up, cheering each other on, asking for support, providing support. The photos don’t really do it justice, but I can assure you the ruach (spirit) of the experience permeates camp for a full 24 hours!

The bottom line: Shared experiences create shared memories. When first session and second session come together, there can be tension. Just as there can be when your kid starts high school. There are new people in “their” space. They might not know where they stand socially. They might not know how to effectively deal with discomfort.

THIS is why Kadimah is a bit longer, intentionally combines first and second session campers in tzrifim (cabins), and is heavy on big, intentional programmatic activities. The program gives campers more time to get comfortable with their surroundings. It all but forces them to come into contact with new people and new ideas. It encourages them to think outside of themselves and to understand how their actions can profoundly impact the world around them.

Next week in Mah Zeh?!, we’ll cover B’yachad – our entering 10th grade program. Shabbat Shalom!

P.S. These blogs got you needing a camp fix?! AWESOME – Come join us on November 3, 2019 at our annual Music in the City event in Minneapolis. Details here.

P.P.S. If you haven’t registered for camp yet, boy do we have a surprise for you. We’ve extended our early bird backpacks until October 10! Register NOW.

September 28, 2018

Shalom from the Herzl Camp (Year-round) Office!

First things first – We’ve decided to keep the Director’s Blog up and running throughout the year! Each Friday before Shabbat we will be posting on the website, shutterfly site, and Facebook (click here to follow us).

The summer daily blog is my ongoing reflection on the daily goings-on at camp.  This weekly year-round blog will provide deeper insight into the planning of those magical summer weeks, the ins and outs of the lesser understood programs at camp, and highlight different aspects of this crazy operation that don’t get often get the spotlight during the summer.

So come geek out with me on the joys and challenges of creating a meaningful summer camp experience!  If there are specific topics you’d like to see covered or have follow-up questions about a blog, please reach out to me at

Second, SHANA TOVA! From all of us at Herzl Camp, we want to wish you and your family a healthy and happy Jewish new year.

This is a time of deep reflection – both as Jews and as a camp.

As we gear up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Jews are asked to do some serious self-assessment. Where have we met our goals? Where have we missed the mark? Who have we wronged – intentionally or inadvertently? The month of Elul is filled to the brim with practices to help with the lead up to this reflection like these or these.

As our year-round team leaves camp and moves back to our “regular” lives – with normal sleep schedules, food we cook ourselves, and fewer bug bites – we also take time to reflect. We fill flip chart sheets (we call them “post-it gadol” read: “big post-its”) with our individual experiences and observations, campers’ evaluations, parent survey results, as well as staff survey results and reports.

This year, we packed our post-it gadol and jumped in the car to Madison. We had two full days of brainstorming, reflecting, and debriefing. We left those two days PUMPED and ready to get to work on Summer 2019!

Here are some key takeaways:

      • Continuity and consistency are key. Every year, there are constants and variables (staffing, processes and procedures, etc). It is up to us as year-round professionals to provide continuity for our campers, staff, and parents. It is up to our staff to create consistency for their campers. Our goal is to provide more of that continuity for you through this blog and other forms of year-round connection.

    • Our campers are most proud of themselves when they recognize their accomplishments. We need to find more ways for our staff and campers to meaningfully reflect on their experiences. Many things at camp aften feel silly schticky, or “just for fun”, however, the lessons and impact they are taking away from those experiences are quite impressive. Note: To test this – ask your campers these questions and watch their reactions – it’s pretty awesome!

        • Did they make a new relationship?

        • When did they feel most confident at camp?

      • What skills have they learned that make them feel independent?

The biggest thing that we took away our two-day reflection session was anavah (humility). We love our jobs and are grateful every day that we get to do what we do. We try our hardest to provide a high quality experience for your family. We know that there are times that we miss the mark: Sometimes we fix one issue but create a new one; sometimes we don’t realize a system or process is causing angst outside of the bubble or camp; and sometimes we just make mistakes or overlook something important in the relentless rush of camp.

In the spirit of the season, we ask your forgiveness for things that we have done to hurt or offend you. We ask for your support as we continue to work to make camp great. We ask for your partnership as we move camp forward to reach new heights. And we extend our gratitude that you are following along with us in this weekly blog as we plan Summer 2019.

Shana tova and Shabbat Shalom!

P.s. Shameless plug or helpful reminder…early bird backpacks are ONLY AVAILABLE in September.  Sign up soon to get yours!

August 6, 2018

Shalom from Webster! Drea here – taking a few steps out of camp clean-up and packing to share some thoughts on this final day of the summer.

I actually can’t believe it’s the final day of camp. There are so many milestones that happen throughout the summer and as each of them occur and then fade into memory, we take a moment to acknowledge their lessons and impact.

In the last 24 hours, we’ve experienced the Kadimah play and presentation of the Michelle Solle Award, the Yesod vs. Habonim basketball game, B’yachad’s Town Hall (more on that in the fall), Rate-A-Room award winners (Ha’atid did an AMAZING JOB!), and so much more.

I want to be able to share all of these things with you. The programming that your awesome kids participate in during the summer and the growth we have the privilege of witnessing. So, I’ve decided to continue this blog throughout the year – about once a week on Friday afternoons before shabbat.

The camp experience has the ability to exist long after the bug bites have healed, tan lines have faded, and friendship bracelets have worn thin. We hope that you’ll continue to ask your camper about their experience often. It helps to reinforce the lessons and memories.

What was their favorite new thing that they tried? What did they learn about themselves? What was the most challenging thing they did? What was the biggest lesson they learned? What were they most proud of during the summer? What did they try and didn’t feel successful – how did they work through that? When did they feel sad? When did they feel confident? When did they feel brave?

Thank you for entrusting us with your child this summer. It was truly one for the record books!

Stepping back into camp life for the closing bonfire! (queue the tears!)

August 5, 2018

Hi Everyone, Dani here again! Drea returns back to camp this afternoon for a final 2 days of our 2018 summer. It has been a memorable one to say the least.

Over the weekend, we got to experience our 2018 Ozrim leading shabbat. It was a pivotal moment for our Ozrim as they truly closed out the final Shabbat showing how much they have grown together as well as individually.

Our Parsha this week focused on reflection from Moses and his relationships and challenges he experienced with the Israelites. I wanted to share the D’var Torah given by one of our own Ozrim, Gabriel Herman. He relates his experience this summer with his fellow Ozrim beautifully to the week’s Torah portion. I have included it below for you to read and follow along on his journey.

I encourage you to also take a moment with your children when they return home on Tuesday morning to reflect on yours and their summer and experiences.

Shabbat shalom Herzl Camp, my name for three more days is OZO Gabe. This week’s Torah portion is eikev, which is part of d’varim. In this portion, Moses continues to reflect on the exodus from Egypt and the times he shared with the Israelites in the desert. Moses reflected on their support in the desert and getting essential items from God such as (manna from heaven, the tablets). He also laments on the idolization of the Golden Calf and other negative situations that had happened. As this is the last Shabbat of the summer, I too have reflected on the past seven weeks of Ozo Summer.

My experience this summer has been spectacular. Both individually and as a group we have had bumps in the road that we have used to become stronger, and an improved group. We have not done this alone, with the help of PUMA (Papa, Uncle, Mama, Auntie) and many other people, getting through tough times was easier because of our peers and role models who have helped us reach the point we are at today.

As I reflect on this final Saturday in Webster, I challenge you to join me and reflect on the amazing experiences you have had, but also to reflect on mistakes and negatives experiences that have been hard in the moment, but in the end only made you stronger as a person.

I was a camper for 8 years, this being my 9th summer. I had an unbelievable time as a camper, and a large driving force of me coming back this summer was to give my campers a positive experience just like I had. The future I have at this camp, just like the Israelites in the land of milk and honey, will be completely new and different, but this summer as well as my past will push me to do even better.

Just because this summer is coming to an end, and not everything during the school year is positive doesn’t mean there isn’t something to look forward to. There is plenty to look forward to in the world of Herzl Camp, and there are plenty of fun times to be had on these campgrounds. Don’t be too sad when this summer is over, but look ahead to the future you have at Herzl Camp. Just like Moses we too can reflect and look ahead to our futures here and beyond.

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom!

August 2, 2018

Shalom! Drea here, signing out for the weekend. I am on my way to a family wedding in Lake Geneva, WI and can’t wait to give my whole family a squeeze. After 5 years in the director role here at camp, I have finally come to appreciate the importance of taking a bit of time away from camp. Ten weeks here in Webster, totally immersed in camp life, can be a lot. And now, as we’ve continued to build this amazing team of vatikim (experienced ones) at camp, I can walk away for a day or two with ease.

With that said, Dani Frissora, our Family Experience Manager, is going to take over the blog for today and Sunday while I’m out. Shabbat Shalom to you and yours!
Dani here…wishing Drea safe travels to her family wedding! Today we are preparing for the last Shabbat of the summer. The Ozrim are responsible for planning, preparing, and leading this final Shabbat. It’s an important milestone in their transition from campers to staff and begin to celebrate successfully completing their training.

I imagine you are also preparing for a transition as you get ready to welcome your camper home. Maybe you are shopping for their favorite dinner, finishing up bedroom redecorating or other surprises, or just taking time to enjoy your last few days of adult time.

As you are preparing, give some thought to how you can keep camp alive and maximize camp’s impact on your family. Your campers have been building up their independence and self-care skills here. Don’t let those muscles atrophy at home! Step back a bit and let them show you how much they’ve grown!

Here’s a thought-provoking article on this subject from the Washington Post – give it a read and starting planning for how you can create a space for your camper to continue their growth.

I’m off to check out The Big Sweep…The Shabbas Queen wants it Clean!!

August 1, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

I just led the last Thursday Prayer Challenge of the summer – the yoga and prayer option. Each week, we ask ourselves where we were this time last week. Without judgement or augmentation, we just take notice of where we are and how we’ve changed, it’s a touchstone that helps us be more present and content with where we are in this place and time. When we take away the “qualifiers” (this is a bad experience, this is a good experience), we are more capable of learning and growing from the lessons we can take from our current experience. This is a particularly AMAZING skill to learn as a pre-teen or teen at camp!

So today I’m reflecting on “the last time we do something.” These last days of camp we have many “lasts” – last Shabbat, last song session, last cinnamon roll, last Ozo Dance… Camp can be such a whirlwind and during these last days, we both speed up and slow down as we experience the “lasts.”

Often it’s only after we get home from camp that the lessons and skills we learned start manifesting themselves… which leads to me another “last.”

Right now, B’yachad is arriving back in camp from their last community service day at the local food shelf. They’ve unloaded, packaged and distributed weekly food shares for 1,100 families here in Burnett County four times this summer. The hours and labor they provide are a real help to this small community and the campers LOVE the feeling of worth and value that comes from making a difference. Parents, to help them continue this newfound mission, look around your community for opportunities for our Yachers to volunteer – they are now trained volunteers who have a lot to offer (and a lot to gain)!

Another almost-“last”, this is our third to last day of “rate-a-room”. We have been so proud of our campers for the work they’ve put into keeping their living spaces clean and organized. We can see the benefits in the way they interact with each other, the pride they show upon earning a perfect score, and the teamwork they experience working towards a common goal. Parents, your kids are also skilled at keeping a clean home. So get out your markers and construction paper and get your family a toran wheel (chore chart) ready for their return! Sweeping, making beds, setting tables – these are no brainers for them now.

I’m stepping back into camp to celebrate B’yachad’s return!

August 1, 2018

Taking a few steps out of camp to reflect…mostly on the fact that it’s AUGUST 1ST!

Wow. I really can’t believe it’s already August. This summer is ticking by so quickly!

Today we’ve had some pretty consistent “heavy dew” (that’s what we call rain here). The temperature dropped by about 25 degrees and we are all walking around in sweatshirts, pants, rain jackets, and rain boots.

We’ve had lots of gorgeous days this session, especially this past week, and it’s easy to take that sunshine for granted when we live outside like we do at camp! We go pretty hard during those days – rockclimbing, swimming, boating, playing sports, cooking outside, and of course, trying our best to stay hydrated.

There is something beautiful about a day like today. We move our chugim (activities) indoors, pull out the board games during cabin time activities, sit and give ourselves permission to have a longer conversation with friends. The heavy dew seems to give us space and opportunity to recharge and nourish ourselves just like it nourishes the land around us – and the sound of the rain on the cabin roof makes for an awesome minucha (rest hour)!

We are looking forward to a fantastic rest of the session and are grateful for this dewey day!

Stepping back into camp in my sturdy rain gear!

July 31, 2018

Shalom! Stepping out of the mishugas of camp to be with you for a few minutes this morning…

Our photographer, Abe, got this wonderful thank you note from Tzrif Yod today that I wanted to share with you:

“Dear Abe,
Thank you for taking all the pictures at camp! We really appreciate it. Our parents like to see us having fun and they wouldn’t know that if it wasn’t for you. We know it can get annoying when everybody says “ABE! ABE! ABE! Take a picture of us!,” and it takes a really patient person to be able to do it. So, thank you!
Tzrif Yod”

I put a picture in my favorite picture box for you.

Tzrif Yod is right. Photos make us happy and annoyed and impatient on all sides! We’ve tried to find a good balance to show what’s happening at camp and to reassure you that your children are well and having fun. Sometimes we hit the mark, sometimes not…but it’s not for lack of trying or thought. Some kids love to be in photos, some run from the camera. Some parents can’t get enough, some want to be released from the obligation of scrolling through each day.

Mostly I think you as parents miss your child and love to see them smiling, loving camp. I wish there were a more effective way to give you the peace that I have as I see happy kids, kids trying new things, kids building confidence, making friends. But photos seem to be the “proof” that gives comfort.

One suggestion I have is for you to sit down with your camper when they return and go through the photos with them. The photos spark stories and get campers talking about all kinds of things that can help contextualize their experience.

I hope our “photo balance” works for you, but whether it does or not, know that one of my favorite parts of camp is how present everyone is while they’re here. Without a screen in front of their face, without the pressure to capture the perfect “post-able” moment – just pure, meaningful moments that live in their memories. It’s just so good.

July 30, 2018

Shalom from Webster! Taking three steps out of camp to reflect with you…

Did you know there are just 8 days left of summer 2018?! How can that be??

This gets me thinking of the other “did you know”‘s that might be helpful to you. Here’s a few:

1. Did you know that bus return is at Hopkins Eisenhower? (I’m thinking you do know that!!)

2. Did you know that our Family Experience Manager, Dani Frissora, is here to answer your questions about homesickness, cabin placement, photos, general camp programming and chugim, etc?

3. Did you know that we have campers coming from 25 different states and two countries at camp this summer? Camp friendships have gone global!

4. Did you know that each week a different age group gets to prepare challah for themselves? They practice the art of braiding the challah and learn the intention that goes into the shape. Ask them about it when they get home!

5. Did you know that our Registrar, Dawn Lindberg, has worked at camp for 18 summers? We really appreciate the consistency, history, and experience that Dawn brings us!

6. Did you know that Saturday night meal switches off between pizza bagels, kugel, and falafel? Our kitchen produces over 1,700 meals a day, which includes meals to support 9 different special dietary needs. We love the care and kindness they show for each of our campers every day!

7. Did you know that hammocks are the new sports chairs of camp? There’s barely a stand of trees without a tangle of colorful hammocks woven between them.

8. Did you know Kadimah is putting on “Beauty and the Beast” this year?

9. Did you know that a chicken can eat 400 ticks a day? Another advantage to our farm program!

10. Did you know that I moved to camp before Memorial Day? I haven’t had a day with less than 13,000 steps in almost 10 weeks…a big plus for the life of a camp director.

I hope you enjoyed this little trivia game! I’m taking a few steps back into camp life…

July 27, 2018

Shabbat Shalom from Machaneh Herzl!

I’m taking three steps out of camp to share a few of my favorite moments from this week:

1.) The RED TEAM won Bikkurim! Their ruach, sportsmanship, creativity, and team cohesion won it for them. My favorite part of Bikkurim every year is watching the four captains of each team – one Kadimah, one B’yachad, one Ozo, one Staff – lead their peers through the day. They are each chosen for specific reasons (leadership, inclusivity, logistics, ruach, etc) and make an important impact on the day. Being chosen is a way to publicly recognize some members of our k’hillah who are so deserving.

2.) Last night at cookout Kadimah & B’yachad played their annual Ultimate game. It is a time-honored tradition and highly anticipated. The kavod (respect) that the players show each other is unbelievable. We love Ultimate here because it is a multi-gendered sport, is self-officiated, and showcases a variety of middot (soul-traits) that we teach here at camp – integrity, social responsibility, leadership. You know, those super casual life lessons that our campers get to practice here at camp! 🙂

3.) Yesterday, we were so lucky to have Rabbi Alexander Davis from Beth El – Minneapolis join us in Mickey’s Mitbach – our amazing teaching kitchen. He taught our campers how to braid challah with kavannah (intention). One of the lessons he spoke about was that Judaism gives us “roots and wings”. It grounds us with traditions and rituals and gives us wings with opportunities and language to practice middot and tools to help make the world a better place. He then wove that lesson into how the challah is braided. With each strand, the campers created roots and wings visually. I won’t be able to do it justice, but suffice it to say, I walked out of the room feeling very grateful to have educator join us here in Webster. (See my favorite photo from the day!)

It is almost Shabbat here at camp. Three steps back into camp to change into my shabbat whites and join the caravan! July 25, 2018Three steps out to be with you this morning!

July 25, 2018

Today is BIKKURIM!! It’s a loud and fun and crazy day! And I realized as I sat down to tell you about it, I was just rewriting what I had written earlier this summer and then twice last summer. I felt a little bad for my lack of creativity but then I realized this sameness is the point! We do the same thing over and over again because it’s working to create the growth we want to see in campers.

Just like Shabbat, we do the same thing each week, over and over the same rituals and traditions, but the moving part, the thing that changes is us! We grow and change and we are the thing that is different each time. Same with Bikkurim… I’ve posted what I shared last year about our color wars and the philosophy behind them. Enjoy – I’m taking three steps back in to enjoy the action!

Last year’s post:

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 slam poetry, 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.

July 24, 2018

Taking three “steps” out of camp to share and reflect with you.

Yesterday was one of those days that brings tears of joy to my eyes. The Kadimah Wall is a time honored tradition in which the Kadimah campers and their staff work together to send everyone over the wall.

There are always a lot of emotions about the wall leading up to it. Excitement, nervousness, fear, anticipation…you name it. Before climbing the wall you will see campers feeling these feelings independently, often not knowing exactly how to work through them. In the moment, however, you will see campers cheering each other on, providing support and encouragement, giving tips on the best hand-grips to get over the wall most efficiently. The Kadimah campers enter the experience still working on their group dynamics and leave as one group, more cohesively intertwined. It is hard work, but certainly work worth doing.

It is also one of those moments when all of camp puts aside their own interests and fully engages in the success of Kadimah. Every camper and staff comes to watch the event, holds our collective breath as each person makes it up, and chants Kadimah’s wall time when all is said and done.

As a camp with over 400 campers in attendance at the moment all doing their own things most of the time, it is these experiences that remind us of the sanctity of the Herzl k’hillah (community). A moment when we are all together, cheering for and wishing success to our fellow Herzlniks, and recognizing that we are experiencing some special.

Ask any Kadimah alum what their wall time was and they will tell you in a matter of seconds. (Mine was 11:33 in case you wanted to test that theory!) For Kadimah 2018 – they will forever remember 8:54! As they should – they’ve earned it.

Way to go Kadimah! We are so proud of you.

I stepped back into camp after writing this just in time to welcome in our second session Bikkurim (color wars)! More on that in Wednesday’s blog.

July 23, 2018

Shalom from Webster! I’m taking a step out of these last two days for some much needed reflection.

This past Shabbat was wonderful. I mentioned in Friday’s blog that it was B’yachad shabbat and they chose to focus on “Our Story” since the parsha of the week was Devarim and focuses on Moses’ retelling and reflections of the time the Jews spent wandering in the desert. The B’yachad campers did a beautiful job leading camp through the weekend.

We ended Shabbat by seamlessly moving into Tisha B’av – the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av – which was yesterday. It is said to be the saddest day of the Jewish year. The day in which we commemorate all the destruction that we have experienced as Jews.

Pretty perfect for summer camp, right? 🙂

In theory, it sounds like a bummer of a day. However, in practice it is incredibly meaningful here at camp. Habonim, Kadimah, and B’yachad campers are offered the opportunity to fast (safely! – we still drink water and require anyone who needs to eat for medical reasons to eat, as many of our campers and staff choose to do), we change our schedule to reflect the somber nature of the holiday, and everyone participates in programming that encourages us to reflect on how Jews have been treated throughout history, what we do with those feelings, and how we interact with the world around us today. The theme and vibe of the day is all about HOPE.

I am always impressed by the depth of conversations and reflections that come out of the day. I recognize that this may be an exaggeration, but it often seems that everyone here at camp as an “ah-ha” moment on Tisha B’av. Yesterday, I heard from a Yesod (entering 7th grade) camper that his big take away from the day was “unity”. He said, “The Jews have been through a lot of stuff – both good and bad. But we are still here because we’ve stuck together through it all. That’s sort of like how we get along here at camp. We stick together through the ups and downs!”.

After a full day of age-appropriate programming, we ended the day with a closing celebration and Israeli dancing. It was AWESOME – so much ruach, so much energy, so much hope for the future! In these crazy times we are living in, it was beautiful to see our campers and staff taking time to reflect on the good, the bad, and everything in between. And to realize that it is a very Jewish thing to want to do something to make this world a better place!

Today, we are back to our regularly scheduled programming. Chugim, tzrif (cabin) times, a surprise Kadimah event (which I will explain tomorrow) and tonight…THE ISRAELI SCOUT FRIENDSHIP CARAVAN for evening program.

I’m off to do an afternoon lap around camp. See you tomorrow!

July 20, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the ways in which this blog gives me a chance to reflect on camp life in the moment. At the beginning and the end of the Amidah, we take three steps back and three steps forward as a physical representation of stepping out of one space and into another.

Today, as we prepare to welcome in Shabbat, I take three steps back – out of the daily goings-on of camp life – and three steps forward – into this reflective space.

We have reached the first shabbat of this final session of camp. For our campers who just arrived this is their first shabbat of three. For Kadimah, the Ozrim, and the staff, it is one of many. For B’yachad, it is their shabbat where they create the “theme” for the weekend based on what they’ve learned of the weekly torah portion, lead services and sichot (shabbat discussions), give d’vrei torah (commentary on the torah portion), and participate in Friday night song session.

For me, it is one of several hundred. I have spent 23 years of my life here at Herzl Camp. There have been good weeks, sad weeks, dewey weeks, hot and humid weeks, weeks that have faded into memory, and weeks that will stick in my soul forever.
As I watch the B’yachad campers stand up in front of camp and demonstrate their leadership skills, their love of camp, and their pride in their Jewish identities, I am in awe of them. They have grown so much over the years and I am lucky enough to have seen them through each year. To see them lead camp not just through ruach and silliness in the chadar but through menschlikheit behavior and judaic knowledge brings tears to my eyes (literally, I’ve spent quite a bit of time today tearing up because they are such an awesome group!).

This week at camp has been an amazing one. Visitor’s Day, our state health inspection, welcoming the Ha’atid, Yesod, and Habonim campers, starting new chugim and seeing our campers try new things, B’yachad community service, the Kadimah canoe trip, the Ozrim moving into cabins as they continue their training…
This is a week that will stay with me. In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty “regular” week (if there is such a thing as camp!), but the vibe here at camp is beautiful. There is something in the air – gratitude, appreciation of each other, support, and fun – that makes my heart happy.

Shabbat Shalom from Machaneh Herzl! Stepping out of the reflective space and back into the present moment. Sending camp vibes to all of you!

July 19, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

It’s been a great day a camp with some welcome cool weather!

Kadimah just got back from their canoe trip yesterday. The weather was gorgeous and they had an absolute blast. They canoed 10 miles one day and hiked the second. The food was one of their favorite parts – they got to cook for themselves for much of the trip. The Kadimaniks came back as a more cohesive unit…just like we planned!

This week our second group of Israeli campers from Sderot arrived on Tuesday, joining the returning Israeli campers who are in the B’yachad program and one who has come back for a third summer as an Ozo. 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. With the fire and mortar attacks happening right in the hometowns of our Israeli campers this summer, it is especially meaningful for our Israeli campers to give our American campers a glimpse into what daily life is like beyond the headlines. Creating this teen-to-teen connection is most meaningful way we can “instill a love of Israel” as our mission calls us to do.

Tonight is all-camp cookout. Our kitchen staff takes the night off and our specialists grill hot dogs and hamburgers. We picnic on the sports field with campers visiting friends from other cabins, playing pick up games of Ultimate or making lanyards while enjoying the beautiful evening. This relaxed night is one of my favorite times at camp. My fingers are crossed that we will spend some of the time outside before heavy dew forces us indoors!

July 18, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

Our Habonim, Yesod, and Ha’atid campers are settling into camp today. They are starting day one of the chugim they selected yesterday and will now develop a daily routine that will carry them through their 3 weeks at camp. Routine provides comfort and gives campers a foundation from which they can stretch their wings and try new things!

A fun thing we’ve been doing that I haven’t shared with you yet is “Rate-A-Room.” This is the highlight of my day – it’s AMAZING! As grown ups we know that an organized space is often a calmer space. I think it is fair to say that our young staff and young campers have not yet learned that life lesson! They are swept up in the fun of camp and being together so time out to make a bed, pick up clothes, put away toiletries just doesn’t seem important. So, to help create happy cabins that provide a safe home base and lessen nerves and anxieties, we have Rate-A-Room.

Rate-A-Room is a list of expectations for what a clean cabin looks and feels like. The list is in each cabin along with a scoring chart. Each day, the Vatikim (experienced staff who work with children and teens year round as teachers or camp staff) visit each cabin, rating the cabin for each category and give each cabin a score.

In a super-fun victory, our Taste boys got a PERFECT SCORE three days in a row and the highest overall score in camp for the week. They celebrated their success and teamwork with root beer floats and Schmutz-Buster shirts in front of all of camp before they went home. Here’s a picture of the big winners!

On another note, we are so happy to have the Ozrim back in camp after two days off at home or in host homes. They are rested and ready to go! Ozrim (staff-in-training) jumped right back into their tracks – in fact, they made breakfast for all of camp today! They work in the office, in specialty areas, and help bring ruach to cabins each day. This year, they are creating the yearbooks for each program in real time. We are so proud of their enthusiasm and the ownership they are showing through their work!

Now I’m stepping back into camp so that I can rate some rooms!

July 17, 2018

Shalom from the 54893!

It’s ANOTHER busy day here at Herzl Camp as we welcome our second to last 2018 session. We cannot wait to see the Ha’atid Bet, Yesod, and Habonim campers. (Summer Family Camp is technically our final session…and perhaps one of the best! There are still a few spaces if you’re looking for a great end-of-summer family vacation!)

Today will be spent taking tzrif (cabin) photos, doing our swim tests, meeting the marp staff and kitchen staff, signing up for chugim (activities) and getting settled into the next three weeks. Kadimah is still out on their canoe & hike trip and B’yachad is counting down the seconds until they get to help us welcome in the new campers.

My personal highlight today will be the 3-5 minutes that I get to spend with each individual cabin playing a welcome game. We started this tradition last summer and, as an introvert, it is the perfect way for me to share my excitement with the campers, make sure I know everyone’s names, and set an intention for their session.

This summer’s welcome game is a handshake game – each camper and staff finds three different partners and learns a new handshake with each one. Then I call out the different handshakes and the group runs around to find their partners for each one. It’s silly, it’s short (got to make sure to hold their attention!), and it highlights how even the most simple things can create connections between people and make memories. My charge to each group is to continue to make meaningful moments with their peers throughout the summer and to bring their truest selves to camp. Last session, I saw campers and staff continuing to do their handshakes throughout the session! It really is the small things in life…

Our night will end with Ha’atid Bet, Yesod, and Habonim around the campfire. The Program Directors will share their wish for the summer and then invite up 2 campers from the program to their wishes.

Here’s to a great three weeks! Stepping back into camp life to welcome those buses. Can’t wait!July 17, 2018

July 16, 2018

Shalom! Another big day here at camp with just a few minutes to update you…

It was great to see everyone that was able to make it to camp yesterday! After you left, with just Kadimah and B’yachad left in camp, it was the perfect time to announce that Kadimah is leaving on their canoe trip today. One day canoeing on the river, one day spent exploring the area around the campsite, and a half day hanging out all together. For many, it is their first multi-day wilderness trip. Understanding safety measures, enjoying the outdoors, and growing closer as a group. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Today’s a big day in a whole different way. Our annual inspection by the State of Wisconsin begins in a few minutes and will go until 5 pm. Wisconsin, perhaps because camping and resorts are such a big part of their economy, has a robust regulatory system for camps and resorts. Today, the inspector will review all areas of camp – our kitchen, our fire protection, our recordkeeping, our infirmary, even things like the distance in feet of our farm animals to our food service area!

While the day can be long, we feel fortunate to be held up to such thorough scrutiny each year. Doing things right is important and knowing that someone will be checking and affirming our work helps keep following the rules top of mind!

This is just one of several inspections and reviews that we participate in. We’ve been accredited by the American Camp Association for more than 50 years and that is VERY detailed review that happens every few years. Ours was last year – checking details like the number of inches each bunk is away from each other in each cabin!

Beyond these “regulatory” reviews, we participate in several voluntary programs within the Jewish camping industry which bring “mentors” into camp to dig deep in specific areas. These mentors generally visit 5-7 camps each summer, spending a few days at a time, reviewing things like Judaic programming or staff supervision. They offer ideas and support gleaned from years of experience as well as a cool new innovation they saw at another camp the week before. The focus on quality in the camping industry has never been more rigorous! Our campers, staff, and families are all the beneficiaries of a great time for Jewish camping!

All that said, it’s time for me to step back into camp for this “annual tradition” that doesn’t come with it’s own cheer…Though maybe it should?? Wonder what the inspector would think if we greet them with some Herzl ruach?? We’ll put that on the list of improvements for next year…

July 16, 2018

Shalom from Webster! Today is a really big day at camp, giving me just a few minutes to reflect with you…

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? Hopefully, Friday’s blog will give you some things to prompt them with!

When Taste, HUC, and Teva Adventure head home, B’yachad and Kadimah begin 3 days of having camp all to themselves! We start with Visitors Day for their family and friends this afternoon.

Several years ago, we changed Visitors Day so that only our 5 & 6 week campers are in camp. Sometimes parents and grandparents of younger campers express a nostalgia or desire for a visiting day. Most are happy to forgo the trip but some would like to see it return for all of camp.

While Visitors Day can be hard for older campers too (because when you are out of sight, you are usually out of mind, and your short visit can trigger homesickness that is hard to get past after you leave), for younger campers, the adjustment back to camp was frequently hard and put a damper on their experience.

With this change and others, we see far fewer kids really struggling with intense homesickness.

Of course, as Visitors Day approaches, many parents’ experience the other end of the spectrum, the big hug and joyous reunion followed by a feeling of (or the outright statement of!) “I’m happy to see you, now go home so I can get back to my friends!”

Tempting as it can be to bring lots of treats and gifts to your camper today, remember our recent change to our Package Policy and the logic behind it: At camp, we’ve tried to make all campers equal – no rich or poor kids at camp, just kids. As packages exploded with the advent of Amazon Prime, they began to interfere. Parents were also sharing the pressure they felt to keep up with the Jones on gifts and treats. I truly believe that camp IS a gift, it is a treat by itself, and all the tchotchkis from home don’t add to the fun of camp but, sadly, often create unnecessary envy and exclusion.

We worried this policy change would be hard for families to adjust to but it was universally appreciated in the first summer. This year, with fewer reminders, we’re seeing the explosion of the flat envelope – fully within the rules, but still envy and sadness are creeping back into the cabins. Campers love to hear from you – they love your notes or emails, your sentiment and news give them the feeling that someone is thinking of them. I encourage each of you to consider if tchotchkis are necessary or if an “I love you and here’s what’s happening with me” is really what they want from you.

Tonight, it will be your hug and sincere interest in their experience that they will remember after you’ve headed home. Treats are forgotten quickly but even if you get the “I’m ready to go back to my friends message” after an hour or so, it is your presence and support that they will take with them over the next couple weeks at camp (and the years to come!). You are more than enough to make the day special!

Stepping quickly back to begin this busy day! Looking forward to seeing many of you this afternoon!

July 14, 2018

Shalom from Webster! It’s been a hot and sticky and slightly “dewey” (read: rainy) week up here and taking a few steps out of camp life to reflect has provided some helpful insight for me. Thank you for following along!

Today, I thought I’d share a bit about Shabbat with you. Shabbat is our time to wind down, reflect on our week, spend time doing activities we don’t typically get to do, and enjoy the company of our fellow camp community.

Our Shabbat observance begins as we get camp and ourselves ready to welcome in the sabbath. Friday lunches are eaten at our picnic tables. First, because it’s fun and second, because it gives us time to clean the chadar ochel (dining hall) in preparation for the shabbat meals. Picnic lunch is a long standing tradition and one that alumni often remember with fond memories. The meal consists of make-your-own egg salad and tuna salad sandwiches. Wowbutter (our peanut butter alternative) sandwiches are always available too!

After lunch, our schedule slows down a bit. After our afternoon chug (activity) we move into time to prepare camp and ourselves, starting the “Big Sweep,” – a time when every age group is assigned a specific location in camp to clean. Of course, no Herzl activity would be complete without it’s own cheer – “The Shabbas Queen, she wants it clean!”.

We then take personal nikayon time to shower and dress in our whites. Cabin groups gather in front of their cabin and join in the caravan singing “bim, bam” and the shechiyanu as we move to Flag Circle. Throughout the week, programs have been creating their flag songs – original lyrics put to popular songs – to share their take on the week and their excitement for the Shabbat to come. We lower the flags, sing the Star Spangled Banner when lowering the American flag, Hatikva when lowering the Israeli flag, and of course, the Herzl rouser when lowering the Herzl flag. Mostly gone are the days when we flew the Canadian flag and sang Oh Canada, but every once in a while, they make an appearance that is roundly loved by all!

From Flag we move to services at the Mercaz and then to dinner in the Chadar. On Shabbat, campers can sit with friends and family from other programs rather than in their cabin group. This is a time to catch up and share about the week. We light candles, share our meal, and spend the evening in Shabbat Song Session. It is a quiet, peaceful evening leading into a restful day tomorrow.

With the weather being what it is (a little cloudy and grey today), I am hoping that any heavy dew holds off until after caravan and services. There is nothing to compare to the feeling of community and connection to God when we gather all together in our Shabbas whites, singing our way to services, and joining our voices in prayer under the pines at the Mercaz overlooking the lake.

Shabbat at camp is a beautiful time that truly imparts the meaning and feeling to our campers and staff of what it is to truly taking a day to rest and reflect and honor our Creator. In the months at home and in the years to come, campers and staff often long for the joy and peace of Shabbat in this beautiful community.

I’m so excited to share Herzl Shabbat with so many first time campers this week! Be sure to ask your camper about some of the activities I listed and get their take on the day when they get home.

July 12, 2018

Shalom from Webster! Taking a step out of camp life to reflect on these last two days…

And what a fantastic two days it has been!

Here is a brief recap:

Taste of Herzl: The Tasters are getting more and more comfortable in the camp environment. My favorite moment happened last night when two Taste campers came bounding out of their cabin, flashlights in hand. When I asked where they were heading they replied, “To the bathroom! See, we are going in ‘twos’ and we are wearing our shoes”! The fact that they 1.) knew the rules and 2.) were more than comfortable heading to the bathroom at night and 3.) were excited to tell me that they had a “bathroom buddy” speaks volumes. The confidence and growth that we see in the kids even in such a short time is so awesome!

HUC: The Minnesota Windchill (the Minnesota professional Ultimate frisbee team) joined us at camp today to meet, run drills, and scrimmage with our HUC campers. This is HUC’s second year in existence and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite programs at camp. Herzl has a long history of playing the sport and many of our alumni have gone on to play and coach at high school, collegiate, club, and professional levels. Two such alumni are up here running the clinic right now!

Campers of all skill levels come to camp and grow as they learn the game. Today, I caught the HUC campers and the Windchill players playing a game of “disc capture the flag” – a creative way to practice their disc handling, foot work, and defensive skills.

Teva Adventure: Teva Adventure had its second day out on the trail! Canoeing, hiking, cooking and enjoying each other’s company. I can’t wait to “interview” them when they get back on Friday and share their experiences.

Kadimah & B’yachad: It’s Thursday, so we had another “prayer challenge” experience. Last week I blogged about the different prayer options that we are offering every Thursday. Today’s experiences were Prayer & Meditation, Prayer & Yoga, a traditional minyan, and a Herzl Camp service. My favorite moment from this morning was seeing a female camper explore prayer while wearing t’fillin (the phylacteries that are worn on the hard and head). It was her first time! To me, the curiosity and willingness to try this new form of prayer and spirituality is what this community is all about.

Tonight is our cookout where all of camp grills out and eats in the sports field. We have a little of heavy dew in the forecast so we are planning on an indoor cookout. We are nothing if not flexible and adaptable!

Stepping back into camp life!

July 10, 2018

Shalom! Taking a step out of the camp mishugas (craziness) to reflect on the day.

Today our “specialty week” got started in full force! We consider this week of Taste of Herzl, Herzl Ultimate Clinic (HUC), and Teva Adventure our “specialty week” because these three programs dive deeper in to different types of experiences than our traditional sessions.

We’ve seen “specialty” camps popping up all over the country. Some are independent camps and some – like HUC & Teva Adventure – are built into traditional camps like ours. And of course, many camps offer a “rookie week” like Taste.

While keeping up with camp trends is certainly on our mind, we started these camps (and continued Taste which has been around for many years!) to reach specific niches of campers. You and your campers have so many options and choices available to you. Providing the right program for the amount of time (and cost) that works best for you and your family is incredibly important to us. So is providing unique programming that speaks to your camper! Our goal over the next few years is to explore other specialty programming that can be added during this week. Any ideas? Send them my way!

Here is a quick overview of what our specialty programs are doing today:

TASTE OF HERZL: Taste is well on their way to discovering the magic of Herzl Camp. They spent today learning Herzl Camp songs, dances, and ruach. Getting comfortable with their surroundings and understanding what is going on around them is the first step is helping our Tasters build their confidence and independence.

TEVA ADVENTURE: Although it feels like Teva Adventure JUST arrived at camp (because they did!), the adventurers left on their outfitted trip this morning. They packed their trip gear and equipment, said t’filat haderech (the traveler’s prayer), got on a bus, and met the Wilderness Inquiry staff in Northern Minnesota. After an orientation, they started canoeing to their campsite where they will set up camp for the next three nights.

HERZL ULTIMATE CLINIC (HUC): The HUC campers participated in a skills assessment yesterday evening. With the information from the assessment, their Head Coach led them in specific drills today to help each camper build their skills. They also studied the rules of the game through the lens of yosher (integrity). As a self-officiated sport, integrity is a key component of the game…and of life!

During this week, Kadimah and B’yachad run their regular programming – chugim (daily activities), canoe and play practice for Kadimah, and community service for B’yachad. However, because it is “specialty week” they also have the opportunity to participate in some specialty activities. We are currently running a basketball clinic led by an experienced coach. It’s great to see our Kadimahniks and Yachers, who have been here for 5 and 6 weeks, respectively, trying new things and showing off their camp pride for the younger campers!

Stepping back into camp life to enjoy the awesomeness of “specialty week”!

July 9, 2018

Shalom from Webster – taking a few steps out of busy camp life to reflect with you.

I missed yesterday – the first day that I’ve missed this summer and I am bummed about it!! But let’s focus on the positive and get you up to speed!

Today is a big day!! The TASTERS ARRIVE!!! And HUC (the Herzl Ultimate Clinic)! And Teva Adventure!! This is a fun week to be at camp with these adventurous and awesome new campers!

But before we get to the new fun, let’s reflect on the last three weeks.

Yesterday, Teva Trek, Tzofim and Ha’atid went home after three weeks at camp. Ha’atid and Tzofim – our 5th-8th graders – make up the bulk of our campers. Their specific programming are building block programs that give the campers expanding opportunities to grow in their resilience, independence and leadership as they age into our longer programs for high schoolers. These campers’ activities really create the day to day ruach and magic of camp – They play capture the flag, they have talent shows, they play “get to know your counselor,” etc – They are the anchor for camp running programs that pull us into the magic and schtick and ruach!

Looking ahead to this week of “special” camps is exciting!

Taste of Herzl is our 1 week camp for 3rd and 4th graders. They “taste” camp by moving as a cabin group to each activity area and giving each a try – unlike older programs where campers select chugim they are interested in. Tasters explore all our choices so they can come back and know what they like. All week I’ll keep you in the loop on these cutest of all campers!

HUC, Herzl Ultimate Clinic, is our specialty camp focused on Ultimate Frisbee. These campers spend their chug time in drills and scrimmages all to gain skills and confidence. Later this week they are joined by professional Ultimate players from the Minnesota Wind Chill. The pros work with our HUC campers and enjoy some camp fun in a showcase game with our staff during cookout and join the HUC campers for a traditional camp fire session.

Teva Adventure is our wilderness program for 7th and 8th graders. These brave campers work on their nature and survival skills – how to put up a tent, use a compass, build a fire, safely hike and paddle, before heading out for 3 days into the deep woods. The confidence they return with warms a camp director’s heart!

I can’t wait to keep you in the loop on this fun week! Stepping back into the mishugas of camp…

July 6, 2018

Shabbat Shalom from Webster! Let’s take a few steps out of the mishugas (craziness) of camp life to reflect on this awesome day.

I had a chance to sit down with Teva Trek after cookout on Thursday night and hear about their experience on the trail. We used a reflection tool that I learned during a conference with the iCenter (an Israel education resource center based out of Chicago). The tool is as follows:

One thing that was good
One thing that made you think
One thing that challenged you
One thing that you commit to doing after this experience
One thing that is small

Here’s what I heard:

The good things: the pride that the Trekkers felt in themselves, the food, the activities
The things that made them think: how much (or really how little) material things one needs to be comfortable, each other’s perspectives, the logistics of building a camping trip, life’s questions that were asked on hikes
The things that were challenging: the dynamics of a small, close-knit group, rolling up their sleeping pads, problem solving in unknown environments
The commitments: to say “yes” to more things, being in and appreciating the outdoors
The small things: the sunset on their first night (breathtaking!), the positive attitudes (no small feat, in my opinion!), learning to skip stones, learning to hang the bear bag (a true exercise in creative problem solving!)

This week’s middah (soul trait) was Leadership. Seeing the Teva Trek campers grow into their leadership and find their voices in such an experiential way is astounding. Their adventures over the past three weeks has had a beautiful impact on camp. Now, it’s time for them to lead camp in Shabbat.

We also had beautiful weather today which was a fantastic way to end chugim for Ha’atid and Tzofim. These three weeks have flown by and with it our time with our 5th through 8th grade campers. I will spend a few more moments reflecting on their time here on Sunday, but for the time being, please let me say THANK YOU! The ruach (spirit) and pure love of camp that our Ha’atid and Tzofim campers bring to camp is palpable and makes me continually excited for the future of camp.

Wishing everyone a shabbat shalom! Stepping back into camp life while the matza ball soup is still hot.

– Drea

p.s. Please check out the Peak from the Week to learn more about what your camper did this week.

July 5, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

Taking a moment to step out of the busyness of camp and reflect on the day with you!

Last year, we added a teaching kitchen, named in memory of Mickey Smith, a consummate homemaker and friend of camp.

This week in Mickey’s Kitchen, our curriculum is “Jewish comfort foods.” In the first chug each day we have “skills lab.” This focuses on the basics of cooking – knife skills, learning how to follow a recipe – what does “dice” mean, how to use a blender, what do you “saute” things… See my POTD of pickle-making in Skills Lab. The next two chuging are combined to give a longer window for completing a recipe. Some of the dishes they are making are shakshuka, a Middle-Eastern breakfast dish, and noodle kugel. For shakshuka, Skills Lab sliced and diced the vegetables needed for the next chug…

Each chug begins their week in the kitchen with a discussion of how the kitchen will be used, why do we cook and share food, what intention do we bring to the kitchen. Because it is a mitzvah to say 100 blessings a day, the campers create their own to begin each session. Here’s one group’s prayer:

“Blessed are you. We are hungry! We would like to feed ourselves with great food made inside the teaching kitchen. We’d like to learn new skills. So can we get started already?!! We’d like to feed upon the food that you have given us. Please help me to have an open mind. Let us cook safely. Try new things. HAVE FUN! And finally, each person will have a turn. Huzzah!” Chug Aleph’s opening prayer.

And speaking of prayer, we have transformed Thursday mornings into a prayer option experience. Each camper chooses the prayer experience that works for them that day. In each option, prayer and the activity are woven in seamlessly. This week, we did:
1. Hiking – While walking individually or in pairs, campers reflect on a set of questions, observations, and prayers to consider as they go, stopping along the way to share observations and ideas.
2. Friendship bracelet making – a chevruta experience (one on one study partner) which involved studying the prayers to learn the meanings, keeping their hands busy with bracelet making using the knots that are in tzitzit (fringes that hang from a tallis which are made in a very specific way). The kids left the study with a new friend and teacher their study partner and meaningful friendship bracelets!
3. Meditation
4. Yoga
5. A traditional Minyan
6. A Herzl Camp service

There are endless ways to bring prayer into your daily life. These options make it clear to campers that they can incorporate prayer in many ways and find meaning in their choices. Over the course of the summer, I’ll describe each of the Thursday service options in some detail like I did for hiking and friendship bracelets today.

Today in Letters from the Road: Adventures in Teva Trek, our campers have made their way home to camp! They are here, they are dirty, they are smelly, and they are grinning from ear-to-ear! I’m going to spend some time with them tonight and fill you in on their reflections tomorrow.

Stepping out of this reflective space and back into camp life! Until tomorrow!

July 4, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

Taking a moment to step out of the busyness of camp and reflect on the day with you!

Last year, we added a teaching kitchen, named in memory of Mickey Smith, a consummate homemaker and friend of camp.

This week in Mickey’s Kitchen, our curriculum is “Jewish comfort foods.” In the first chug each day we have “skills lab.” This focuses on the basics of cooking – knife skills, learning how to follow a recipe – what does “dice” mean, how to use
a blender, what do you “saute” things… See my POTD of pickle-making in Skills Lab. The next two chuging are combined to give a longer window for completing a recipe. Some of the dishes they are making are shakshuka, a Middle-Eastern breakfast dish, and noodle kugel. For shakshuka, Skills Lab sliced and diced the vegetables needed for the next chug…

Each chug begins their week in the kitchen with a discussion of how the kitchen will be used, why do we cook and share food, what intention do we bring to the kitchen. Because it is a mitzvah to say 100 blessings a day, the campers create their own to begin each session. Here’s one group’s prayer:

“Blessed are you. We are hungry! We would like to feed ourselves with great food made inside the teaching kitchen. We’d like to learn new skills. So can we get started already?!! We’d like to feed upon the food that you have given us. Please help me to have an open mind. Let us cook safely. Try new things. HAVE FUN! And finally, each person will have a turn. Huzzah!” Chug Aleph’s opening prayer.

And speaking of prayer, we have transformed Thursday mornings into a prayer option experience. Each camper chooses the prayer experience that works for them that day. In each option, prayer and the activity are woven in seamlessly. This week, we did:
1. Hiking – While walking individually or in pairs, campers reflect on a set of questions, observations, and prayers to consider as they go, stopping along the way to share observations and ideas.
2. Friendship bracelet making – a chevruta experience (one on one study partner) which involved studying the prayers to learn the meanings, keeping their hands busy with bracelet making using the knots that are in tzitzit (fringes that hang from a tallis which are made in a very specific way). The kids left the study with a new friend and teacher their study partner and meaningful friendship bracelets!
3. Meditation
4. Yoga
5. A traditional Minyan
6. A Herzl Camp service

There are endless ways to bring prayer into your daily life. These options make it clear to campers that they can incorporate prayer in many ways and find meaning in their choices. Over the course of the summer, I’ll describe each of the Thursday service options in some detail like I did for hiking and friendship bracelets today.

Today in Letters from the Road: Adventures in Teva Trek, our campers have made their way home to camp! They are here, they are dirty, they are smelly, and they are grinning from ear-to-ear! I’m going to spend some time with them tonight and fill you in on their reflections tomorrow.

Stepping out of this reflective space and back into camp life! Until tomorrow!

July 4, 2018

Happy 4th of July from Webster!

Oy vey! What a busy day this has been. Here is a brief rundown:

– We had some weather come through this morning that allowed us to start the day with an extended breakfast dance party! A little heavy dew isn’t going to keep us from celebrating the day (or any other day for that matter).

– During Z’man Kodesh (Holy/Sacred Time – Our Jewish Education time), the campers studied the Israeli Declaration of Independence. An interesting discussion ensued on this 4th of July day.

– Kadimah began their chugim (daily activities) and started to really dive into what it means to be in this program. For the first time in their camp careers, first and second session campers come together for a 5-week shared experience. It. Is. Awesome.

– The day ended with an epic 4th of July Parade around camp! The parade highlighted all sorts of groups at camp…The chinuch (education) team dressed in their shabbas whites, the Israeli Scouts dressed in their Scout Uniforms, our farmers carrying their chickens, the Ozrim with all their ruach! It doesn’t get much schtickier than that. (Pictures will be posted on the 5th.)

And, of course, another “Letter from the Road: Adventures in Teva Trek”.
The Teva Trekkers made their way to the Porcupine Mountains via Lite Girl Point to drink from a natural spring and do some agate hunting…cool! Once they arrived in the back country, they did a session with the Leave No Trace educational team, watched another beautiful sunset, and enjoyed the outdoors. And, just in time for the 4th – they happened upon a small town in the Upper Peninsula to watch a fireworks show! After three nights in a tent, everyone is a little tired, but absolutely loving life.

This is just a day in the life here at Machaneh Herzl. I love the learning, the ruach, the schtick, the silliness, and good clean fun. In this crazy, crazy world, it truly makes my heart smile!

I am grateful for this blog and the opportunity it provides me to take a step out of the busy-ness of camp life to take it all in, appreciate the good stuff, and learn from/redirect the not-so good stuff. And I am grateful to all of you for following along!

At the beginning and end of the Amida prayer it is custom to take three steps back and three steps forward as a physical representation of stepping out of the “here and now” and into a reflective space (and vice versa at the end). So today I take three steps back – out of this time of reflection -and three steps forward – back into camp life. Ruach-fest…here I come!

July 3, 2018

Shalom from Herzl Camp!

First things first – photos will be posted later in the day today because our photographer is on a well-deserved day off.

I spent some time with our B’yachad campers last night. I was checking in with the group about how their experience is going so far after a week at camp. Chatting with campers Shayna, Aliya, and Isaac, they said, “You know how B’yachad means ‘together’?” (yes, I do know that!) “This is the most together we have ever felt at camp!” They talked about how camp used to mean connecting with their main camp friends, staying in tzrifim (cabins) together in little groups, but now, after the Kadimah year, they feel close to the full program and feel like they are experiencing camp with 70 of their best friends, not just 6. We’ll keep you posted through the next 5 weeks on all of the things that B’yachad accomplishes together!

Tzofim had an amazing day at Wild Mountain yesterday! This out of camp adventure is a special treat for our 7th and 8th grade campers. They take buses to the waterpark and have a great time. They get to “just be” and enjoy a fabulous day together!

And now…”Letters from the Road: Adventures in Teva Trek”
Teva Trek is checking in each night on their satellite phone. They’ve settled in at their first site and went on a gorgeous hike in the woods. Next stop, the Porcupine Mountains!

Often people ask me why we continue to run this small program for 10th and 11th graders (mostly 11th graders participate). We run this program because we see these campers grow through this unique program in ways that we don’t see in our other programs. Without fail, Teva Trekkers report (and we see) that this time is life-changing. As the director, over the last decade, I can attest that a disproportionate number of our Hanhallah (Sr Summer Management Staff) come out of the Teva program and some of our very best staff, Herzl Legends, were Teva Trekkers. Year after year, we see this whether the program has 3, 10, or 12 participants. In 11th grade kids have so many good choices in how they spend their summer but those who choose Teva Trek leave the summer with a head start on some keys to success in adult life: they are grounded, they are focused, and they approach challenges with a “get it done” mentality.

I love taking this time to reflect on camp with you each day. Thank you for reading along with me! I’m off to get the Ulam ready for the Kadimah campers’ welcome today!
July 2, 2018

Drea here from the 54893!

Today I went in the kitchen to talk with our Kitchen Director, Dave. I saw this note from campers tacked to the wall and had to share it with you. The kindness and thoughtfulness that our campers are capable of is sometimes overwhelming. Their concern for their fellow campmates “extra needs” and their awareness of what it takes to meet those needs gives me hope for the future.

Our kitchen provides over 1,500 meals a day and serves campers with a variety of dietary needs. To make that job even more challenging, unlike most camps, our whole camp shares meals together and we eat family-style. This is a meaningful part of the community building aspect of camp, but delivering 500 meals hot and delicious in a 10 minute window is not easy. Dave and his crew do it with love and make sure that our campers and staff feel cared for. Thus this wonderful thank you note!

Throughout this week, I will also be adding a section I like to call “Letters from the Road: The Adventures of Teva Trek”.

Yesterday was the first day on the trail and, boy, was it was a wet one! The crew left in full rain gear, backpacks packed, and smiles on their faces. After spending the day learning how to do “wet exits” from their kayaks, setting up camp, and making their first meal on the road, the rain finally cleared and they were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset over Lake Superior.

Today’s adventures include a hike and paddling through a (hopefully) sunny bay on the lake.

The grit and perseverance of this group is truly amazing. Each time our Teva campers learn a new skill, accomplish a goal, or overcome a fear, I can see the pride on their faces. Because of the small group size of Teva Trek, this year’s campers play an integral role in deciding the details of the trip. To see them seeking out these adventures and encouraging each other along the way is what it’s all about! Sending lots of love to our great adventurers. Stay tuned for more updates tomorrow…

July 1, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

Today, we said goodbye to our Noar campers, 4th & 5th graders, who were here for two weeks. For many this is their first overnight camping experience so it’s a BIG event in their lives! We are all sad to see them go (even the sky is crying…or perhaps that is just heavy dew).

One of the things I love about Noar is the independence they gain in choosing their own 4 chugim (activities) and doing that twice during their session. Some struggle to make decisions without their parents’ help and direction, some boldly trying new things, and some are in the middle. It is a stark contrast to the ease with which our B’yachad campers (10th graders) make those decisions. In just 6 years, these kids will be in B’yachad and it is one of the joys of my life to see that growth and independence develop summer over summer! Seeing them leave so excited makes me excited for future years with them.

Today’s other big event is Teva Trek leaving on their wilderness adventure. In the midst of a big heavy dew, Teva headed out on the trail! They have been building up survival and outdoor skills with shorter trips and team building activities at a high ropes challenge course. Using those experiences, they got to help plan this trip with our Tripping Staff so that they are invested in the activities and have set a trip that will be a stretch but they feel up to the challenge! They will be paddling and hiking through Minnesota’s amazing wilderness areas for the next 5 days.

This year, Teva Trek is an all female program. Watching these young women plan their adventure, pack all their food and supplies on their backs, and head out with smiles on their faces, ready for adventure, ready for the unknown and the challenging – it is just camp at its very best! Their days allow for some intense hiking and paddling in the day and then leaves plenty of time to set up camp and spend time reflecting and sharing their experiences.

Each night we’ll be in touch via a satellite phone – I’ll be sure to relate some of their insights and experiences over their 5 day trip.

June 29, 2018

Hi! Dani here again…Drea is on her way back right now so I’ll update you on the last day.
I got down to the waterfront yesterday and it was so great to see so many kids in the water enjoying our beautiful lake on a hot day! They were using our giant inflatable, our log roll, kayaking, sailing, fishing and playing in the water.
About 12 kids were fishing. I was there when a boy threw his line in and about 30 seconds later pulled out a Sunnie and yelled out, “I caught my first fish on my first try!” If only all of life were so easy!  

Last summer, I was Herzl’s Waterfront Director, after many years on the waterfront at several other camps throughout my college years. After a few years in the classroom, it was great to spend the summer on the water! This summer, my role has shifted to Family Experience Manager but I try to get to the waterfront each day to lend a hand and enjoy the lake.

The forecast was right – it is hot! We are hydrating, staying in the shade, and the water to try to stay cool. Fortunately the forecast looks like storms will hold off so that we can welcome Shabbat with our caravan and have services under the trees at the Mercaz. My husband, Joe, who is Outdoor Education Director, and I are continually grateful for the natural beauty and resources that Herzl is blessed to manage!

This Shabbat, the Ozrim are responsible for planning and leading Shabbat services. Each program brings their own spin and schtick to services – making them interactive – acting out the Torah portion and creating a Havadallah that engages campers in the meaning of closing Shabbat and beginning the week. This responsibility as the “teachers” helps them to own and understand their role as Jewish educators for others in camp.

Drea will be back to blogging for us on Sunday and on behalf of all of camp, we all wish you a peaceful (and cool) Shabbat!

June 28, 2018

Hello! This is Dani Frissora, your Family Experience Manager, filling in for Drea who is enjoying a day off.

Tonight is our camp-wide cookout. Every Thursday, all of camp gathers for a barbque in the sports field. The burgers and hot dogs are grilled by our specialist staff and the rest of the staff and campers are hanging out in the grass. It’s a time to visit with other cabins and campers in other programs and enjoy a meal outside. Some kids play pick up Ultimate games, some sit and make friendship bracelets – it’s some unstructured time in the week to have a little more freedom of choice. This tradition has quickly become a favorite time of the week!

Yesterday, campers selected new chugim. Israeli Scouts, Rockwall, Waterfront fun, Mickey’s kitchen, and yoga are very popular this week. Mickey’s Kitchen has also been very popular at Tzrif time activities – specialty popcorn and bourekas were the hits this week.

Ha’atid hiked out to Strawberry Fields for a cookout dinner last night. It’s fun to take advantage of the beautiful weather and get out of the Chadar Ochel sometimes!

Speaking of weather, it is getting a little steamy here so we’ve implemented so measures to ensure we are staying hydrated and are re-applying sunscreen throughout the day. If the forecast is correct, we will modify the schedule to spend more time inside or at the waterfront tomorrow.

This is my second summer at camp and my first as Family Experience Manager. I’ve been enjoying getting to know many of you and your kids. I feel lucky to be your connection to camp and be able to help you and your kids get the most of your camp experience!

June 27, 2018

Wow! Yesterday was very awesome.

B’yachad has a special role in camp and a special meaning for me (and really, for all staff). These campers will be here from now through the last day of camp on August 7. When they go home, we will have finished the whole experience that is Summer 2018.

The B’yachad campers (“Yachers”) will be with us through thick and thin – dewy days and hot days, good food and bad food, care free weeks and dramatic weeks. I, personally, have known the Yachers their entire camp careers. I’ve seen their seven year old triumphs, their 13 year old troubles and now I begin to see the adults they will become.

Many campers choose not to return to camp after their Kadimah summer – entering 9th grade. And it makes some sense. Kadimah has the canoe trip, the play, the wall, and is the first time that first and second session come together. It’s exhilarating. As an entering 10th grader, our campers have more opportunities at home to entertain themselves and fill their time. They are old enough to get more jobs, they have their driver’s license, etc.

So what is the value of returning to camp for six weeks? Why B’yachad?

To try and give you the sense of the difference between Kadimah and B’yachad, here’s a metaphor that’s helped me.

If Kadimah is the wedding and first year of marriage, B’yachad is the second year and beyond. The time that starts to feel “normal”, settled, comfortable. The lessons that our campers have learned over the years start to solidify and are put into practice. They stretch their leadership skills, learn to use their authentic voices, and become meaningful contributors to the camp community. This then gives them a glimpse into what it means to be a meaningful contributor to the Jewish community.

The six weeks that our Yachers will spend on the shores of Devils Lake will be some of the best weeks of their lives (oh who am I kidding? They are some of the best weeks of my life too!) Being a part of your child’s growth and development is an honor – one that I do not take for granted.

From the youngest Taster to the oldest Teva Trek camper, the life cycles of our campers is why this job is so exciting!

June 26, 2018

Hello from Webster!

Bikkurim ended last night and (drumroll, please…) the GREEN TEAM won! The pure joy and ruach of our camp-wide color wars is something everyone looks forward to each summer. One of my favorite new activities was the Slam Poetry Contest. The kids who competed then presented their writing to all of camp after dinner, in addition to the Pop Dance and Plaque competitions. I love showcasing our wide variety of talents and interests. I’ve shared a lot about what’s new but many longstanding traditions remain – like Silent Lunch (which is in fact my favorite part of Bikkurim!)

As fun as Bikkurim is, campers and staff tend to be a little tired after going all out for a day & a half. So it is good that today is Shmirat Ha’Guf which means “guarding the body.” Every Tuesday, we have a midweek check in to be sure that we are following healthy habits – drinking enough water, wearing sunscreen, and eating nutritious food. We even end the day early to get some extra sleep. It’s the perfect way to follow Bikkurim AND just general good practice. 🙂

The big news of the day is that B’yachad arrives later today. We are looking forward to our oldest campers joining our k’hillah (community). Now we just hope that the heavy dew (Herzl’s word for rain) stops long enough for the swim tests!

June 25, 2018


Our color wars are a chance to bring 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! Lots of planning and creativity go into the themes and the big reveal. It really rocks 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. This year, we added an Ozo Planning Committee to bring some fresh ideas for competitions.

The competitions range from fire building to team plaque to basketball to spelling bee, giving all campers the chance to shine! Today, “Kids Chopped” debuts as a Bikkurim competition in Mickey’s Kitchen. 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. Thinking on your feet, utilizing your team, recognizing each other’s accomplishments, and honoring a job well done is what Bikkurim is all about.

Here’s a story from last night’s fire-building challenge that exemplifies the point of Bikkurim (and if this isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is!), related to me by our Tripper, RJ:

It was a windy night for a fire-building competition, the object of which is to burn a rope stretched above your firepit. Last night, the winds were blowing and one team realized that the traditional path to winning was not going to work. They were fanning the flames as a team and saw that instead of increasing the fire, they were pushing the flames away from the rope. They quickly moved to a new strategy, linking arms and encircling the fire to block the wind. Their fire grew within the shelter they created so much so that their rope burnt through and they won! The team then went to other groups to cheer them on and share the new strategy.

RJ’s point in sharing the story with me was to share how proud she was of their strategic thinking, their willingness to change tactics in the middle of the competition, and their willingness to share their knowledge with the competing teams…

Thus proving, that everything I ever needed to know about life, I learned in Bikkurim!

The colors wars continue through the day; more stories to come.

June 24, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

Wow! What a beautiful shabbat we had up here at camp. This past week, we studied Chukkat – the torah portion where Moses hits the rock twice to get water for the Israeliites in the desert. It reminds us to be grateful for what we have and to think about the consequences our actions might have. Moses didn’t get to go into the land of milk and honey (Israel) because of his actions. Our consequences may be different than that, but the lessons are definitely there!

Today we are back to our weekday routine. Teva Trek is off to work on team building at a high ropes chellenge course. Noar, Ha’atid, and Tzofim are participating in their four daily chugim (activities). The weather is beautiful and camp is rolling along!

After a full week under our belt, the routine of camp is setting in and I can see campers and staff feeling more comfortable and confident. Now we start to see campers taking risks, trying new things, stretching beyond their comfort zone. And thus, the fun really begins for us at camp – watching campers and staff blossom here in this unique Jewish community.

June 22, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

Camp builds independence and self-reliance – but how? Well, a key element is that camp challenges our campers and staff. It pushes us out of our comfort zone and increases our tolerance for discomfort. Now no one WANTS a child to be uncomfortable. This is why we are programmed to step in and provide comfort, but we also are skilled at finding inspiration in unlikely places.

Why is tolerance for discomfort so important and why do we in the camping world embrace this? Because in the real world when we find ourselves facing new challenges, changing situations, demanding problems, we are experiencing discomfort. If we know that we can handle being uncomfortable, if we have the experience of successfully pushing through it, we are more confident, more certain that we can do it!

Our campers come to camp with differing levels of tolerance for discomfort. Those with higher levels provide inspiration and encouragement for those with less. When your cabinmate has come to camp on an airplane by themselves, not knowing anyone, and you see them making new friends, learning the rules of camp, and beginning to fit in; you are able to put your own discomfort into perspective. Each of those campers who arrive without a bunk request, having never been to camp before, gives each of us inspiration and they provide an infusion of that ruach that makes camp so magical!

Thank you to each of you who push your precious little ones out of the very comfortable nest into the discomfort of camp! It isn’t easy but it sure is important! A special shout-out to our Omaha campers (see my favorite photo on the main page!).

We’re off to get ready for Shabbat – we clean camp, clean our cabins and ourselves. Dress in white and sing our way to services! These rituals create routine and routine creates comfort!


p.s. For specific information about what your camper has been doing this week, see the Peek of the Week bulletins posted. This is a weekly recap of what your child has been experiencing here at camp written by their Program Directors.

June 21, 2018

Hello from Webster!

Today all of camp is totally screen-free…Our internet has been intermittent making office communications difficult – Photos will be posted as soon as we have consistent connection to upload. This disconnection to the outside world reminds to give you an update on how our campers are transitioning from home to the screen-free world of camp.

The connectedness of the world outside of camp is different than the connectedness of camp. At home, technology is at our fingertips – information, funny videos, candy-crushing games, best friends, kinda friends, people we recognize are telling us all about what they are doing and seeing through social media. Technology fills all the gaps in our time – we are ALWAYS doing something.

At camp, we disconnect electronically and then connect with lots of real people in a close physical space and face to face. In an instant – from the moment we step on that bus. Campers go cold turkey and there is an adjustment period. The first 2-4 days at camp, we see “technology withdrawal symptoms” Campers feel out of sorts – the gaps in their time are empty with no phone to turn to and it can feel like boredom. It can also feel anxious, jittery, nervous, not knowing how to fill the time, not knowing how to start a face to face conversation, not knowing what’s going on in the world outside.

(Staff members often feel the same even though we have access to technology but it’s in much more limited timeframes than at home. But we start weaning ourselves from our phones during staff week to ease into it, unlike a camper who just steps on a bus and is disconnected for weeks to come.)

To help campers adjust and build up skills for success in a disconnected world, staff plan programs that help break the ice and structure ways to help campers make friends. We have buddy dinners where campers are paired up with someone they don’t know for a meal – but to help them navigate, we provide a list of questions to ask or play a game where they have to learn 5 things about the person. We play silly short games to fill gaps in time. We get our muscles moving with dancing and games.

And soon, we’ll move past our anxieties and be present here together in this magical place.

June 20, 2018

Shalom from Webster!

Today, Teva Trek is heading out on their first overnight camping trip. They’ll be in Northern Minnesota for two nights, building up their survival skills. They’ve completed a packing tutorial with our Outdoor Educator, Joe Frissora. They’ve received their trail notebooks complete with the Traveler’s Prayer.

Daily chugim started yesterday so Noar, Ha’atid, and Tzofim are participating in four activities of their choice each day.

The Ozrim have begun their “tracks,” where they experience in different areas of camp to learn about what it takes to successfully provide a summer camp experience. The Kitchen Track made breakfast for all of camp today! Other tracks include front office; specialty areas like waterfront, sports, outdoor ed; Chinuch (Jewish education); facility maintenance, etc.

Yesterday, we settled in. Today, we create routine for campers and staff. Routine has a powerful effect on creating a sense of home and community, helping campers to feel grounded, safe, settled, so that they can begin to build their independence and self-reliance.

June 19, 2018

Hello from Webster!

Yesterday we welcomed our first 250 campers to kick off Summer 2018!  The first day of camp is always much anticipated by campers and staff.  We count down the days, we plan and prepare, we train and we hope for good weather.  We know that for every camper and family who can barely wait, there are others who struggle with nerves and anxiety, maybe some sleeplessness and tears. Each of us, each summer, take a different path to arrive here in Webster to begin the work of building this summer’s Jewish community.

In recent years, we have built upon tradition to acknowledge our different paths to get here and the beginning of our shared path in building our community.  After welcoming all campers to camp in the George Kaplan Ulam, they meet their cabinmates and counselors and then head to their cabins to unpack. After that, each cabin takes a tour of the key areas of camp – dining hall, bathrooms (haks), etc.  They go to the marp (infirmary) for health screenings and the waterfront for their swim test. Once everyone is settled in and we share our first night meal of spaghetti, we gather for Opening Bonfire at Ner Howie.
We start our new tradition of Opening Bonfire with some context from me – “We build a fire here today that becomes part of camp forever – the ashes feed the earth and the smoke becomes part of the air.  What we build here tonight becomes part of camp forever. Each of us adds our “kavanah” (intention) for this summer and that hope/wish/plan becomes part of camp forever.”
After I share the intention of the Opening Bonfire, and between campfire songs, one camper from each tzrif (cabin) comes forward to add a stick to the fire. As they add their stick they share their kavanah (intention) with all present.  Their kavanah can be anything from trying new things, making new friends, build memories so that I become a Herzl “lifer.”  My personal favorite from last night was a Noar camper who said as she added her stick, “I wish my parents could see how much fun I am having.”
My kavanah is that this blog is a place to share with you, not just the fun your child is having, but the traditions and skills they are learning.  Fun is the delivery system of our intentions – self-reliance, independence, love of Judaism, and passion for Israel.

June 15, 2018

Welcome to my Daily Directors Blog! This is my personal reflection on these days at camp, which fly by and yet create lasting memories, skills, and identity for campers and staff.  Through reflection, we deepen the meaning and impact of the camp experience for all of us – campers, parents, staff, and even volunteers. Camp has a powerful role in the community and each of our lives.

While campers arrive on Monday, my staff and I have been here for two weeks training for a safe and successful summer.
  • The Hanhallah (Summer Management Staff) kicked off the summer with new camper tours, showing first time campers around camp.  Sharing the Herzl Ruach is always a highlight!
  • We explored Middot (soul-traits) and supervisory skills with my staff and guest educator Rabbi Adam Allenberg.
  • All staff participated in StrenghsFinders in an effort to understand ourselves better so we can work more cohesively as a team.
  • We dove deep into our relationship with Israel as an independent camp and as individuals, gender issues and meaningful consent, as well as social justice and how camp has shaped our passions.  Each discussion helps our staff prepare for camper conversations and how they can help campers grow as individuals and Jewish community members.
Every summer is unique.  This year, I’m especially excited to see the work we’ve done in sports skill-building and sports as a tool for Jewish learning come to fruition. Also, we’ve created a really fun and educationally Jewish cooking curriculum for Mickey’s Kitchen – can’t wait to see and taste the results!
I hope you’ll follow along this summer and give yourself a taste of the magic of Herzl Camp.  We are counting the hours until our campers arrive!
Shabbat Shalom.

May 16, 2018

I’m getting an early start this year with some thoughts on how to prepare your child for camp

Google “influence of parents vs. peers” and you’ll get a long list of ways that parents set the course for all kinds of choices. TV watching, cell phone time use, language choices, alcohol and cigarette use…all come back to parents’ example.

This is true at camp, too. The work you’ve done over the years is the foundation for your child’s camp experience. At camp, we grow the seeds of independence and resilience that you planted.

With this in mind, here are some tips to prepare a first-timer or a returning child:

Model the behavior
Camp is about trying new things and being uncertain. Demonstrate this for your children. Try something new – buy a fruit you don’t recognize at the store together. Express your discomfort or curiosity or even aversion to trying it. If you don’t like it, try it again another time “just to be sure.” You can model willingness to try new things, to be unsure of the outcome, and show them how to navigate the unexpected.

Give them wings
Everyday at camp is chance to gain new skills. Demonstrate your confidence in their ability to care for themselves by letting them succeed (or fail) in a controlled way at home. Teach them the rules in advance, of course, but let them experience being in charge of themselves. Let them pack their own lunch, pick their own outfits, get dinner started for the family, and absolutely include them in packing for camp. These tasks help them gain agency over their experiences and feel confident to expand their competence.

Don’t come to the rescue
Failure happens. It’s not the end of the world, but rather an important part of life. Herzl Camp staff members are trained to “fail forward,” always learning from their mistakes. Give your camper the chance to fail and don’t fix it for them. If the dinner they tried to make doesn’t turn out, pour a bowl of cereal and ask them what they think happened. Ask what they’ll do differently the next time…and make next time happen soon. Share your own failures – the brownies that didn’t turn out so you stopped at the store on the way to the party; the bike chain that you couldn’t reattach so you walked home. Express frustration or disappointment as well as acceptance.

Screen time weaning
Our addiction to our phones is real. So is theirs. Going cold turkey at camp is easier but it has challenges. Our “entertaining ourselves” muscles are set to solo digital mode. Going without forces us to flex our creativity muscles; our brains work hard to fill the digital gap. Campers often express the feeling as “I was bored.” Picking up a deck of cards and asking someone to play Crazy Eights is a skill.

To prepare them, carve out some screen-free hours or days for your family. Even a few times will strengthen those muscles and ease their transition. Then, when the whole cabin is in digital withdrawal, you’ll put your child in a position to be the leader, the one who grabs the deck and starts dealing.

Parenting is more than a full-time job, camp is a tool designed to give you a helping hand. A little pre-work at home can make the camp experience even more effective!

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