My name is Eli Pollack and 2013 will be my second summer as the Tennis Specialty Counselor at Camp Harlam. I was recently given the opportunity to attend the Kivun Fellowship Sports Training in Palmer, MA. Kivun is a joint program of the URJ and Ramah Camping programs, offering six training sessions for Camp Specialists. The Kivun program strives to enhance the skills of summer specialists, both within their specialty area, and as Jewish educators able to integrate Jewish content and knowledge as an integral part of their specialty instruction. By creating a network of camp professionals and specialists The URJ and Ramah will continue to provide support, program ideas and resources beyond the Kivun experience. Below is my short reflection on this amazing opportunity.
When Camp Harlam called me and asked if I wanted to take part in the Kivun Sports Retreat at Camp Ramah, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to attend. In the days leading up to the confrence, however, I started having doubts. I had never been to a Ramah camp, and I was going all on my own. No one else from Harlam was making the journey up to the retreat, and I was afraid that everyone else would know someone except for me. Upon arriving at the training, all of my doubts were washed away. Everyone was inviting and eager to get to know all of the other participants in the different retreats going on that weekend. Another thing that calmed my nerves was the mere fact that I was back at camp. We all know that feeling the first time we go back to camp in over 9 months, and that is the feeling that I got. Upon walking into the Chadar Ochel and seeing that lunch would be a hearty meal of good old camp grilled cheese, I knew I was in for a great week. Over the course of the four days I spent at Kivun, my group mainly talked about the psychology of sports, and how our campers react to different activities that we engage them in at our clinics. I learned how I can make sure that every camper, no matter how competitive they are, are engaged and having the most fun possible. I also took away vaulable lessons on how to incorporate a little bit of Judaism into my clinics, which I am going to use this year to engage my campers and teach them new Hebrew vocabulary that they may have otherwise never learned.
One thing that was different about being at a Ramah camp was that they are a conservative camp movement, whereas the URJ is Reform. Ramah camps pray three times a day, which was new to many URJ staff members, but we would pray a more reform style service with just URJ members in the morning. When the heads of the Ramah staff approached us and asked if we wanted to add a little bit of the URJ service into the evening prayers, the first thing we all thought of was, Dan Nichols. Dan Nichols in our eyes is the epitome of what camp music is all about, but the Ramah camps had never even heard of Dan Nichols. We were baffled at the fact that they did not know who he was, but they enjoyed our rendition of B’tzelem Elohim during the evening prayers on the last night of the retreat. It was different for them, but after the service I had multiple people come up to me wishing that they could have a guitar at services and sing songs like Dan Nichols.
I am very thankful to the URJ and to Camp Harlam for giving me the opportunity to go to this amazing training, which made me a better counselor and better teacher. I look forward to teaching our campers Judaism through tennis this summer. See you in a few short weeks!