By Hannah Teller
Throughout the summer, Galil’s Jewish Life programming has centered around heroes. In the beginning of the session, Galil learned about a variety of heroes – from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Mahatma Gandhi – and the Jewish values these heroes embodied. The heroes they have learned about all session held many titles, including activist, lawyer, paratrooper, poet, and many more. All of the heroes shared one common trait: they advocated to help others.
Just a few days ago, Galil campers participated in a Jewish Life learning program where they were asked to think back to a difficult time in history, like the Holocaust and Civil Rights movement in the United States in the 1960s, and decide how they would have chosen to act. There were many different prompts including the choice to protest, to protect others from persecution and violence, and to speak up against authority. Each camper took the time to reflect and answer thoughtfully about how they would have chosen to help others. Some decided they would have chosen to protect themselves while others would have been more radical in their efforts to make change if they were alive during those times. In this program, there were no wrong answers.
After a hectic day full of activities at camp, it is always a shock to watch campers be engaged in meaningful and complex programs, but it was no surprise that my campers had insightful ideas to add to the conversation. As the program continued, the campers had the opportunity to share the issues they were passionate about and how they wanted to make change. Campers shared stories about their own experiences with advocacy, with many campers proudly sharing that they participated in the March for Our Lives protest and women’s rights protests this year. From paid family leave to immigration and climate change, our Galil campers had plenty of issues they wanted to fight for.
Inspired by Jewish and non-Jewish heroes alike and the importance of making their voices heard, Galil wrote letters to their elected officials about the changes they wanted to see. As a unit head, I was incredibly proud to see my campers advocate for what they believe in and embody the Jewish values of a hero. It was a welcome reminder that each one of my campers, at only 13 years old, has the potential to be a hero.
Hannah Teller returned to camp this year to serve as the Galil Unit Head. This is her 12th summer at Camp Harlam. This spring she graduated from the University of Wisconsin. She will attend Seton Hall University School of Law in the fall.