By Lisa David
Last session, as Maccabiah concluded, our Carmel Girls took to heart our instructions that there be “no Macabiah in the bunk,” a message we share throughout Color War to ensure that the competition stays on the field and does not interfere with the relationships of our campers when in their cabins. After three days of competition, where they all had played and danced and sang their hearts out, they were bemoaning the fact that some had won and some had lost.
From that, something beautiful emerged:
Carmel Girls “Unity Cheer”
We’re all one, not two, not three, not four.
We all win, not lose, not tie the score.
We’re all top, not bottom, not in between.
Let’s hear it for the Harlam team!
As our Second Session concludes, our campers are once again reuniting with bunkmates and those in their units, after being on different teams for the previous three days. It amazes me to see our community transform in these ways. When teams are announced, our campers are fully committed to putting their all into being successful, which at times means winning a specific event, but at other times means just doing your best and demonstrating compassion and good sportsmanship. They create new friendships with campers of different ages and staff they might not have worked with directly before. And when Maccabiah concludes, there is the relief of reconnecting with what is familiar and the discovery of new strength in relationships after a bit of a break in the routine. But regardless of the ways in which we connect and then transition, we are all, in the end, part of the larger Harlam family. We are all united in this shared experience, brought together through the unique culture built so intentionally here, and our way of being and doing things at Harlam.
What does it mean to be a part of this Harlam family? For some, it means proudly wearing a bracelet they received when they pushed through a challenge or discovered inner beauty, or demonstrated growth in one of our other middot (character traits). For some, it means discovering their voice through performing in the camp play. For some, it means finding safety and comfort when singing and swaying with arms wrapped tightly around new and old friends. And for others, it means leaving camp feeling proud about new skills gained, and with a sense of independence and resilience built through long, fun, and sometimes challenging days.
We know that as campers leave their Harlam family and return home to yours, the transition may be difficult at times. Translating their experiences here to others outside of this “bubble” may be challenging, but we want you, too, to feel a part of our extended family. To that end, we wanted to share that being a part of the Harlam family means returning home with:
- Stories: So many stories about people you don’t know and words you might not have heard before, like Siyum L’Yom (Closing of the Day ritual) or S’morning Camp Harlam (our daily opening all-camp program). A great way to learn more about camp is to sign on to your account and let your camper give you a tour through the photos we took all summer.
- Silence: It’s typical for kids to still be processing their own experience. We’ve put together some prompts for discussion, but your camper may need some time to catch up on sleep, arrange their own thoughts, and then be able to share what they experienced.
- Coughs and Sniffles: We are proud to have an amazing medical team, and though our doctors and nurses have been monitoring our children for illnesses, sometimes the combination of close living quarters, long days, and less sleep leaves their immune systems a bit weaker.
- Sand, and maybe someone else’s sock: Our campers seem to be determined to take a little bit of camp home with them! While we do our best to assist them with packing their belongings, we know that the wear and tear of a few weeks of living with others may mean items are a bit messier than you left them. We encourage you to visit the lost and found on closing day to be sure you find any items that may have wandered during the session.
- Maturity and Responsibility: Your camper has spent the last 3.5 weeks learning to clean up after him/herself, eat communal meals, solve problems, and generally pitch in to get a job done. Give your child a chance to show off by stepping back a bit and letting them sort out their own laundry, help get dinner on the table, and manage conflict with their siblings.
- New Relationships: Being a part of this immersive experience creates bonds like none other. As we like to say, Harlam is where “friends become family.” Your children will have made new friends and also may have struggled at times to connect with others. All of these are valuable opportunities for learning, and we hope the positive relationships they created can be sustained beyond their time at camp.
- Jewish Ritual and Wisdom: Harlam is an immersive Jewish experience, where kids live Jewishly 24/7. Our hope is that the lessons learned, the vocabulary, and the middot (character traits) built here are brought home and shared. We encourage our kids to continue the camp traditions that are meaningful to them once they return home, so ask your child about the songs they sing or the blessings they may have learned. Harlam is a place where we can both discover new things about ourselves, and share experiences that connect us to others. It is a safe place for exploration, a place that offers lots of opportunities, where success is celebrated and failure can also be celebrated as a chance to learn. It is a family, and I thank your family for joining ours. I look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow and watching as you reunite with your children. Thank you for sharing them with us, and for allowing us to grow with them as well.
Safe travels and Shavuah Tov!
Lisa David is serving in her second summer as Camp Harlam’s Director after 15 years as a professional in the field of Jewish Camping. She is a former Harlam camper and staff member, and a parent of Harlam campers.