Hello from Webster!! I’m here with our Noar, Ha’atid Aleph, and Tzofim campers and staff creating our Jewish community here at camp again this summer. In fact, I’ve been here since Memorial Day – you see, Staff training is a month long process with waves of programming and operational staff coming in for special trainings, leadership development, curriculum planning, etc. This year, we spent extra time to get our brand new Waterfront up and running and wow – is it amazing! The management of this new space and the integration of our international staff from 5 countries is a sight to behold.
Over the course of the summer, my plan is to blog each and every day! And I can tell you already, like many things at camp, I’ll be going to a “plan b” at some point. So, most days, you’ll hear from me about what’s happening at camp. I want to share the stories that I get to experience with you as parents, grandparents, alumni, or alumni parents/grandparents. Jewish camp is a place that provides identity and community, not just to our campers and staff but to all who want to opt in to our k’hillah in the woods of Wisconsin! If you want to hear more about a topic or wonder about a picture, shoot me an email and I’ll share what I know about it.
For the third year in a row, all this planning time allowed me to get out into camp and spend time with each k’vutza (group) on their first day at camp. This individual time with our campers helps me know how each tzrif (cabin) is doing as they begin to build their community. I can see and feel how they are connecting with each other AND I get to be part of their community right from the start with a fun game! Camp is about creating connections and it starts with me (and you, and you, and you…)
We closed the night with our tradition of Opening Bonfire at Ner Howie. This time together as a full camp gives us an opportunity to set the tone for their time at camp. Each bonfire, we recognize talk about how as the wood burns, the smoke fills the air and our senses with the ruach (spirit) of this particular summer, and the ashes create the foundation upon which future bonfires are built – it is the past, present and future all in one moment. Last night, I also took a moment to tell the story of Howie Stillman z’l, a Herzl camper who became a journalism student and really believed in telling stories, which is what we do around a campfire. Each camper and staff person takes a moment to consider their kavanah (intention) for this summer. Each k’vutza picks one camper to represent them and put that hope/wish/plan into the fire where it burns and becomes part of camp forever. Spending time together telling stories under the stars by the campfire is truly timeless. It is one of my favorite moments of each first day…
Thank you for coming with me on this journey this summer. It is my privilege to take care of your children, help them find their Jewish voice, and hold space for this community to come together. In my experience, these are friendships and memories that will stay with our campers forever. It feels good to share it with you each day!
PS. Camp is not all rainbows and sunshine – every day something unexpected happens, and we take a moment to celebrate the heroes who save the day! At camp, we do this with a round of High/Low/Hero:
The High was that everyone got here safely.
The Low was that the Des Moines bus stalled TWICE!
The Hero was Wendy Snitz, one of our camp care team professionals and camp mom, who kept everyone calm and turned the delay into an opportunity to get to know each other – building community before they even arrived!