By Lisa David
When we gathered this morning in Chapel in the Woods, the portion of the Torah that we read together was D’varim, from the book of Deuteronomy. The portion talks about how, as the Israelites have reached the end of their wandering through the desert and are anxiously awaiting the moment when they can enter the Promised Land, Moses takes time to retell the story of their journey. Having experienced it in real life, he describes the harrowing moments, the moments of joy, and the moments of sadness, as well as the lessons they have learned on the way.
As we get closer to the end of our session, it’s amazing to already hear the ways in which our campers tell the stories of this summer. Punctuated by laughter and smiles, they tell stories of friendship and bonding, stories of challenge and risk, and stories of success and pride. I can see that as the remaining days are counted down, each moment seems to carry more significant weight, each conversation, accomplishment, or memory is captured in words, so as to not let the moments slip away.
It would be impossible for me to recount all the stories that I hear, or the moments that I have the privilege to witness. Putting into words what it feels like, as a Camp Director and a parent, to see kids transformed in so many positive ways, in real time, feels like an impossible task. I try, each week, to shape and share stories that might help you experience the magic and feel some of the feelings your kids feel here. Just a few stories I can share from recent days include:
That time when our Kineret unit went to the Iron Pigs minor league baseball game, and when a nearby fan caught a pop-up that went into the stands, all of our kids cheered and encouraged the fan to give that game ball to one of their Kineret friends who was celebrating their birthday on that night. When the fan followed their encouraging words and presented him with the ball, the kids erupted in cheering! The Kineret faculty member, a rabbi in residence for two weeks who was working with the unit, presented the fan with an Achreyut/Thinking of Others bracelet, to thank them for demonstrating one of Harlam’s seven middot (character traits), and the campers and staff went wild with applause and cheers.
That time with one of our Sharon campers injured their arm and chose to get an orange cast to represent the unit color (each unit has a designated color, the color of their unit/camper t-shirt and the benches they sit on in our amphitheater). They also chose orange in anticipation of our upcoming Maccabiah (Color War) to ensure that no matter what team they are on (red, green, blue, or gold), they are ready to support their team with great ruach (spirit)!
That time when our K’far Noar campers, many of whom are very dedicated to learning to be songleaders who are able to lead worship, song session, campfires, and other musical experiences, excitedly arrived for their own songleader training elective, only to find that due to a scheduling conflict there were Sharon campers there for a shira (music) session at the same time. They immediately jumped into gear, helping our staff to lead the Sharon camper’s music program, teaching them new songs, and easily managing the group for a full period of instruction.
That time when our oldest campers in Chavurah learned with their staff and faculty about legacy, and instead of choosing to conduct a Chavurah “prank,” they chose to contribute to the community in positive ways, by starting a composting program, painting a mural about the importance of a “good name,” recording music in our recording studio to share the songs of summer with the community, and preparing a time capsule to capture treasured memories of the summer.
And, perhaps my favorite, was that time when I observed one of our Intro Experience campers, on the day that he was to be picked up by his parents to depart camp, excitedly jumping up and down in the parking lot as he watched the cars pull into the gates of camp. When I asked him if he was jumping because he was excited to see his family, he replied: “No! I’m just SO PROUD of myself!” as he continued to excitedly jump with joy!
There are countless other stories I could share, but words just don’t seem to do justice to the value and impact of this experience. In their own time, in their own way, in just a few days your children will be able to share their own stories with you as well. I hope that reliving these important and impactful moments, through their words, will also bring you great joy, as you share this journey with them.
Shavuah Tov (Have a Good Week!)
Lisa David is serving in her third 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 proud parent of 3 Harlam campers.