Week 5 – A Letter from Camp

17 Jul, 2023

Dear Herzl Families,

Oh, what a week to be at Herzl Camp!

Since Danya wrote you last Shabbat, we’ve had a joyful and jam-packed final week of Second Session. We kicked it off on Sunday — Israel Day — with the return of the Israeli Scouts! Every Saturday night at “12 Gates,” our show that’s part-recap and part-roast of camp, a traditional moment is when the entire camp chants together: “We want the scouts! We want them now! We want the scouts!” In 2023, after several years away, the scouts are back!

The Tzofim (scouts) from Israel are on a caravan across the United States, visiting camps and sharing their unique blend of ruach (spirit). At most camps, the Scouts’ ruach is probably a bit overwhelming. I think the Scouts meet their ruach match at Herzl … and then some. Singing Israeli songs and leading dances, the Scouts charged into camp and, with hundreds of Herzl kids hyped for a fun night, made the Beit Ruach come alive. The walls of our modern and multipurpose indoor gym reverberated with energy as the entire camp got to enjoy an incredibly festive evening. Did the kids like it? You bet they did — one member of Ha’atid (AKA “Teeder Nation”), our 3rd and 4th graders, told me she loved it so much, “I got all their autographs!” Only at camp, my friends — only at camp…

Not every night is a blow-the-roof-off evening at Herzl, but every night (and day) is special. Your kids have been enjoying another round of chugim (electives) — opportunities to challenge themselves, grow their skills, express themselves creatively, and have pure fun. For example:

  • In Omanut (arts and crafts), some days campers made friendship bracelets, other days kids painted beautiful paintings on canvas with Rosh Omanut (Head of Art) Adia, and still other days our budding sculptors threw down some clay in our ceramics studio.
  • In the aerial park, campers climbed, stretched, and challenged themselves to make it all the way to the final landing, where they could fly down the zipline to end the chug period. As kids let out a “wheee!” as they flew through camp, they were then greeted by Lalo, one of our many sweet and talented staff members, to help them down with kindness and enthusiasm.
  • Sage, a longtime staff member, took a group of campers on the pontoon boat to look up in the sky during “Aquatic Birding” chug — an activity she dreamed up. At Herzl, she willed it, and the chug was established!
  • Brenna has led her “pickle people” through games of Pickleball on our newly-resurfaced tennis and pickleball courts. Brenna told me at Caribou in April about her dream to start a pickleball chug. Brenna planned it, she ran it, and it was promptly popular as punctual pickle people played pickleball perfectly.
  • Seth taught kids golf in the Golf Chug, and I loved seeing them with their bags of clubs this morning as the chug culminated with 9 holes on our neighbor’s golf course.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, this is the summer where classic beloved chugim are joined by new chugim thanks to our Chug Innovation Grants made possible by the generous support of Herzl supporters and the Herzl Camp Foundation. Herzl’s electives are so varied and so fun. Whether waterskiing or pickleballing, whether strumming a guitar or swinging a golf club, whether cooking in Mickey’s Kitchen or birding on Devils Lake, whether learning all about “Mythical Beasts” with Alyssa or letting out a Tarzan yell as you fly through the air after climbing farther than you thought possible … oh, to be a kid again and to have the amazing choices Herzl provides!

The fun at Herzl is top-notch, but what makes camp here particularly special is the community. Each age group of cabins are in a program (unit), and each program has special traditions and develops new ones. Our Habonim (“Builders” – 7th and 8th graders) got to go to Wild Mountain in the St. Croix Valley, and they had a blast there and throughout camp all week long. Our Amudim (“Pillars” – 5th and 6th graders) learned what our newest program’s name means and then went on a scavenger hunt at camp to find pieces of actual pillars. They assembled it into one large pillar, signed their names on it, and this pillar has been traveling from tzrif to tzrif (cabin to cabin) and making appearances all around camp — kind of Herzl’s version of the Stanley Cup. Our Ha’atid group (“The Future” – 3rd and 4th graders) is a mighty and joyful crew. I stumbled upon a group of them yesterday having the time of their lives as their counselors and Ozrim played a game with them that involved a lot of splashing and a lot of laughter. Zach, Levi, and Shambo had the buckets of water flying through the air, as Ben led some spirited games of ping pong on our awesome Tayelet (boardwalk) above the waterfront.

Yesterday, under perfect Webster blue skies dappled with a few clouds to soften the sun, we enjoyed some Herzl community time in style: Our Kadimah (9th grade) and B’yachad (10th grade) groups played each other in Ultimate Frisbee, kicking off a tournament that will last into Third Session. The entire camp gathered on the sports field to watch the blue Kadimahniks and the black-jerseyed Yachers play one another in a fierce and close game of Ultimate. Ultimate Frisbee has been one of Herzl’s core activities for years, and yesterday afternoon it showed. As the game went on, the Thursday night cookout began — so younger campers walked a few steps to the Pavi to get their barbecue food and some watermelon before returning to catch all the action. Some Habonim kids threw a disc on the side — practicing, no doubt, for when they will be old enough to get into the game. As younger campers dreamed of glory, this year’s players — kids of all ability levels — competed with ruach and joy, while each team’s cheering section stormed the field after each point was scored. Who won? It was close, but the Yachers pulled out the victory — they’ll face the Ozrim next week!

As I write this to you, we are getting closer and closer to the start of Shabbat. The air will be a little sweeter on Shabbat, the hugs a little tighter, the love for camp a little more palpable, as we gather as a community one final time during Second Session. Oh, what a session it has been! We have plans to end the session with great energy. Some of your kids are staying for Third Session – we have so much fun in store for them! And, of course, some of your kids are leaving us on Sunday with the conclusion of this session. To all of you, please me say: Thank you.Thank you for trusting us with your children. Thank you for having such awesome kids – fun-loving, enthusiastic, sweet souls. Thank you for giving your kids the gift of Jewish camp. On behalf of an incredibly dedicated crew of summer staff: thank you!

Shabbat Shalom,

Josh Levine
Executive Director

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