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The Bridge From Campers to Counselors

Yesterday our Gesher (CIT) participants, led a meaningful service about their transition from campers to counselors. Here are the readings they shared. 

By Ella
Dear Camp, I love talking about you. There are so many things I love about you, I would talk about all of them if I could. Unfortunately, that would take too long. I contemplated writing about my brothers, and more specifically how grateful I am that camp created and grew incredibly unique and important relationships among us. I thought about the perfect bubble we’re all in right now, and how lucky I am to be in an environment that allows all of us to find and be the best and realest versions of ourselves. I spent time thinking about counselors and staff past, people who constantly put my needs before theirs, as well as made sure I felt loved, safe and happy. I thought about my friends. I will never have the right words to describe the unyielding love and trust I have for them. These friendships maintained despite hundreds of miles during the year are undoubtedly one of the most treasured aspects of my life. I wish I had time to talk about each intricate thing I have experienced here, I don’t. Instead, I’ll say thank you, or rather I love you camp, this is my love letter to you. I am head over heels in love with you. From the bright red hands after a vigorous Shabbat song session, to the fashionable hairnets we wear during adventure. I am who I am because of our time together, and while I’m excited for our relationship to continue, I know that one day I will have to live without you. For now, let’s continue to make the most of our time together. I love you. A lot.

By Claire and Shayna
One night in Arava, our whole bunk came together and tried to predict the future through a most likely to list. We were so fascinated by our CITs and what we would be like when we were in their shoes. Recently, we came across this list, not having thought about it since we were 12 years old. It said that Shayna would be at camp the longest and be a current events reporter. And Claire would be most likely to hike the whole Appalachian Trail and write a book one day. While most of these were purely just guesses, something that we wrote on the list that has remained true was that we would stick together. Our friendship that formed in Arava has consisted of crying until we laugh, laughing until cry, supporting each other at our lowest points, and confiding our biggest secrets like our camp crushes. Although being best friends was merely a prediction that we made as Arava campers in 2014. We never could have known that 5 years later we would both be standing here as Arava CITs and together leaving lasting impacts. Friendships like ours that we witness everyday through our Arava campers are so strong because of the community and family built within Harlam. Camp is a place where you never know that to expect and although we never expected to be standing here together we are beyond grateful for this chapter in our lives and we can’t wait to be an even greater part of our campers journeys going forward. 

By Olivia and Sam
In my AP Psychology summer reading assignment, I found that many of our choices in life are defined by our genes and our family who came before us. Earlier this year, we discovered that our grandparents went to Jewish overnight camp together many, many years ago. While I wish I could say going to camp was a decision I made consciously, I can’t. Going to camp is in our genes. Our grandparents went Jewish overnight camp, my dad went to Jewish overnight camp, and my Mom and uncle went to Harlam. Raise your hand if you have parents, grandparents, or aunts and uncles who went to a Jewish overnight camp? The love we all share for camp is spread throughout generations. on your prayer card.

By Oren and Jordyn
For the past six weeks, Jordyn and I have been paying attention to the random things we hear around camp. And people at camp say some pretty weird things like…
-It’s a great day to be dehydrated!
-If I were a potato I’d probably be a sweet potato
-I’ve never wanted to play nine square more than right now.
-His hair looks like a Hershey kiss
-and our personal favorite why are the CITs even here?
Over the course of this summer, we’ve actually found our answer to this question. We’re here to cheer on our campers in everything they do. We are here to clean up throw up here to provide support in any way we can. But most importantly, we are here to impact our campers lives as we cross this bridge from camper to counselor, we are learning to notice the little things that happen around camp and it’s these little things that often end up most memorable and most important. The shema literally translates to “hear oh Israel” the most important word of this being “hear” listen to this wonderful camp around you pay attention to the small moments for those small moments can have a pretty big impact so we leave you with some words of advice we overheard a camper say “don’t worry…paper is definitely edible!”

By Mahayla, Becca and Rachel
Camp is a loud and chaotic place. From athletics, to chugim, to constant background noise, it’s hard to imagine a way to find silence in your day.  You may feel as though you are constantly on the go and that rest and quiet are unimportant, or at least unattainable.
We want us all to challenge that belief.  The never ending chatter and feeling on-the-go busy all of the time does not have to be our standard.  We can work to intentionally be different. Ask yourself, what are you missing when you don’t take time to be silent? What could you find or discover about yourself and the world around you if you would stop and be still?
In the bayit, the CITs shared home in front of the lake, it has become not only a priority, but a vitality that we create an environment of peace and safety. If you were to venture into the bayit during and OFF period, you would enter a dark, quiet room filled with sleeping CITs, people reading or working, and many, many fans blowing in an attempt to cool the living space.
As campers learning to be counselors, we have picked up a few ideas on how you can create peace in your days: recognize what is loud.  As a k’ton CIT, quiet is a rarity I almost never experience. Like me, you may have become desensitized to just how loud the world is around you, but that doesn’t mean that the constant noise doesn’t have an impact.  Tune in to what is going on around you so that you can become aware of ways to reduce unnecessary sounds that may be causing stress. This may seem counterintuitive, but being desensitized to the noise isn’t the same as being quiet or finding calm.  It may mean that your brain is working on overdrive to try to manage the noise while also focusing on whatever task at hand. Whether you’re playing gaga, making crafts, sitting at dinner, or just having rest hour, noise is everywhere. Working to be intentional about this focus can help you be more successful at hearing the sound, and making a plan for finding quiet.
As a Communications CIT I spend most of my day walking around camp by myself taking pictures. The quiet time that occurs while walking from activity to activity taking pictures is one of my favorite parts about the job. At camp, alone time and quiet time are rare. Walking around a quiet camp with only distant sounds of campers yelling and laughing, looking at the beautiful view of camp, is such a peaceful part of my day. Since camp is such a fast paced place, time to look around at how beautiful our camp is such an important part in making your camp day as meaningful as possible.
Become friends with your thoughts and feelings.  One of the reasons we steer clear of quiet is that it means we may become aware of our thoughts and what is happening inside of us in those quiet moments. Without sounds and talking to drown it out, we must face what is happening internally.  This is not a bad thing. Be open to embracing the narrative inside. You may find that you like what you have been trying to ignore. If it is a difficult narrative, that may be a time to find a friend or talk to your counselor to help process or figure out what is going on inside of you.  Ignoring those thoughts and feelings will not help them become calm or go away.  Eventually, our feelings will demand to be felt and may catch us off guard if we have not opened ourselves up to them.
By Jolie and Molly
Before each of us started our first years at camp our older sisters told us a little bit of what to expect: late nights and early mornings, a cold pool and Endless pb&j sandwiches. The things we didn’t expect about camp were the traditions that make camp so special. As a Carmel camper a lot of things about camp scared me. It was a new place with lots of things I didn’t know. But Throughout our years at camp we’ve caught on to the prayers, the songs, the cheers and so much more. Now, as CITs we feel it is our responsibility to teach our campers what our counselors taught us. We want to show them that camp is more than just the tower and the z pool. It’s slamming on the tables during song session and going crazy for Rak Dan. Our counselors taught us how to love camp and we can’t wait to teach you!

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