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Back to Basics

By Gadi Paskoff

This summer will mark my 14th summer at Camp Harlam. I’ve passed and stacked hundreds of times, done countless evening programs, and have experienced just about every Harlam tradition that has been created since 2002. To say I’ve gotten comfortable at this place would be an understatement. Although we usually associate the word comfortable with a positive feeling, that is not always the case at a place like this where anything can change at any moment. It is good to feel out of your box from time to time. This is what challenges us to grow.

In Carmel, we are growing and maturing every day. This summer in Carmel, our goal is to teach the basics and introduce them to this special place. For many of our campers, this is the first time having a roommate (or 15), the first time they are away from their parents for so long, the first time they have a schedule outside of school, among many other things. As these life skills are being learned, they are also learning Harlam skills. These include the “announcement song,” what Nikayon (cleaning time) entails, and where the “Beit” is. No day is like the last. Skills, both in life and in camp are being learned constantly.

While we definitely have the most fun in Carmel, it is anything but easy. We are constantly overcoming challenges that are thrown at us every day. This is the time that we learn the most and the time that the “firsts” that I talked about above are happening day in and day out.

As this summer has progressed, the leadership of Carmel has been learning side by side with our campers remembering that revisiting the basics is helpful. No matter where you are or what you are doing in life, it is good to revisit the basics at some point. After so much time in one place, the basics can actually be the hardest. As we invest so much in our campers, it is hard not to feel like we are learning these skills for the first time along with them.

When we can’t pass and stack, we get frustrated that the skill hasn’t been fully learned yet and that we can’t get everything on the cart without food getting everywhere. When the whole camp is chanting the announcement song and we mumble some of the words, we look around hoping no one can notice. We are all one team learning or relearning camp together from campers to staff.

There is something beautiful about firsts though. While it is challenging, it is new and it is a time to learn about something bigger than yourself. In Carmel, whether we have been at camp for one summer or for 14 summers, we have embraced these firsts. Carmel has taught me that you are never too old to go back to the basics and do some learning even when you are supposed to be teaching. When you think you can do no more learning regardless of the subject, it is extremely dangerous. We need to embrace our 8 and 9-year-old selves to remember to be humble. Thank you to Carmel 2016 for pushing me out of my comfort zone and relearning what makes this place truly great.

Gadi Paskoff is the Carmel Unit Head for the Summer of 2016.

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