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Shabbat Shalom from Aaron

By: Aaron Selkow

Dear Camp Families & Camp Friends:

Earlier today I was on the phone with the parent of someone currently enjoying the start to our 55th season at Camp Harlam. We were discussing how their child was doing, and as we shared our individual perspectives, we worked together to try to figure out how to best support this wonderful young person while at camp. We had reached a really good place; the resolution of the challenge seemed mutually agreeable and we were at that part of the conversation when people get ready to move on. But before we could hang up the phone, this parent said something that I had to respond to.

This parent said, “Thank you”.

Simple enough. Appropriate. Respectful. I said, “You’re welcome”, right away, as a courtesy, and then they explained more of why their words were a genuine sentiment. They wanted me to know how much they valued the challenge that we have at camp to deal with over 500 children and 250 staff members every day. This parent has experience with camp, so they went further to express more specifically how they understand the volume of responsibilities and the long days and the pressure…and so on. And now I was very appreciative, and was compelled to share something that I believe genuinely and feel the need to assert again today, as we prepare for the first Shabbat of the 2013 season at Camp Harlam:

“We need to thank you”.

You are the people that send your children away from home for a significant stretch of time and trust that we will take care of them. You make a major financial investment in their identity development that can only be valued fully over time. You show your support so many times as we try new things, test the limits, and challenge our community to grow. You give of your time to be present at our events throughout the year. You shuttle your children all over the place to maintain the relationships that are born here at camp (and you pay the phone and cell phone bills the rest of the time!). You provide us with the feedback that drives improvement and change. You tell your friends what you love about Harlam so that more people find their way here. And you work hard all year to be the best caregivers that you can be without the support of nearly 250 other youth professionals; without the ability to immerse yourself in a familial environment around-the-clock with no other distractions; without the packed schedule of cool stuff; and without a sense of objectivity that we find to be such an asset.


Our first days of camp have been amazing. So much has happened in a short time, and it feels like we’ve been here for much longer (and that’s a good thing). Your children and nieces and nephews and grandchildren and friends that are here are running and playing and high-fiving and meeting and learning and struggling and trying and smiling. It’s all playing out in real time, right before our eyes (and through some new means of communication with our families, you are actually “seeing” a bit more of it, too).

As we prepare to welcome Shabbat at Camp Harlam, walk hand-in-hand up to Chapel on the Hill, look out onto the Mahoning Valley with the sounds of Reform Judaism in our ears and the developing passion for camp in our hearts, I am reminded of just how thankful I am to be present here…with your kids.

Thank you for all that you do to make this possible.

Shabbat Shalom,




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