For as long as I can remember I have been spending my summers at Camp Harlam in the Mahoning Valley. I went up through all of the units, went on the Israel trip with camp, was a counselor in training, and then a staff member for five years. You ask me where in the world I am my best self and I instinctively say “Camp Harlam.” You ask me where I have made my lifelong friends, I instinctively say “Camp Harlam.” You ask me what the most beautiful place on earth is and I instinctively waiver between the Negev desert in Israel and Camp Harlam.
This summer, I am trying my luck at Harlam Day Camp. I started as the Assistant Director on June 1st, and if I am going to be honest, I had some doubts about not being at Camp Harlam this summer. Not doubts about HDC. I knew the camp would be amazing. But doubts that it would not be the Harlam that I know and love. Will the same magic seep through the walls and sit in the air on our grounds at the campus of Barrack Hebrew Academy? Will the campers show the same passion and love for Judaism? Will the soul of the young people at camp be nourished in the same way? Will there be legends of HDC that are never forgotten, just like those many legends that figuratively and literally plaster the walls of Camp Harlam?
The first day of camp flew by. I talked to some enthusiastic parents, I watched some campers play gaga, I went to omanoot and did some art projects. I heard campers tell stories from last summer, and saw friendships bloom. After the whirlwind of the day, camp was drawing to a close. I was in a daze. As I was walking over to the flagpole for siyum liyum, I heard our youngest campers, our five year old Roshanin, tadpoles, cheering “you better get ready for Joe and Betty, H-A-R-L-A-M.” This was the cherry on top of the magic that I had been feeling at HDC. Though the campus of HDC is miles from our friends at Camp Harlam, the spirit and heart of Harlam is alive and well both on the Main Line and in the Mahoning Valley.
After a rousing rendition of our cheer, Karen, our Teva specialist, asked me if Joe and Betty were still alive. When I explained that they were not, nor do they have any children, or grandchildren, she looked at me and said, “all of us.” Without any explanation or reference to the song “We are all Joe and Betty’s Children,” sung in the wonder years of Camp Harlam, Karen just got it. Because here at HDC, we are living on our legends of Joe and Betty. We are living the magic, we are instilling the same passion and love for Judaism, and we are nourishing the souls of our young campers.