By Lisa David
Wow, time has flown this summer.
At Harlam, we always talk about the need to have a true and beginning, middle and end to our experience. From the moment we welcome home campers on Opening Day, through the packed days that both fly by and also feel full of endless memorable moments, and concluding with this final week, there is thought and intention behind each experience. We built a community of meaning, and must be sure each person feels connected, and so we plan and we plan and we plan some more.
And as near the end of this session, and as we’ve watched so many of those moments that we planned for, for nearly 2 years, unfold – well, it has been nothing short of magical. As I type this, my eyes are filling with tears and my heart swells when I think about what we’ve experienced together and accomplished here this summer.
When I talk about what makes Harlam special, I don’t often begin by emphasizing the size of our camp site, the facility and amenities, or the breadth of programming, though all of those things help make this place successful. Most important is the community. The sense of safety, support, and connections nurtured here help kids discover their best and true selves. Being challenged and taking risks are easier with a safety net solidly in place around you. Meeting new people becomes easier in this immersive, communal environment. Finding beauty and meaning, and perhaps gratitude, is possible here, when curiosity is nurtured and wisdom is shared. And as we near the end of our session I can confidently share: we did it, together.
While not every kid was transformed entirely, all of them are leaving here changed in some manner. Translating the intensity and impact of their experiences here to others outside of this “bubble” may be challenging, but we want you, too, to understand and 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) or Rak Dan (Israeli dancing on Friday nights) or Canteen (a new addition where campers get treats!). A great way to learn more about camp is to 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 while we successfully kept COVID out of camp, many of our immune systems are coming out of a year-long hibernation. Sometimes the combination of close living quarters, long days, and less sleep means they are leaving camp with some “camp crud”.
- Dirt (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. If you are missing items, please check out our Facebook Lost and Found Group where we will post found items, and/or submit this form to report missing items.
- Maturity and Responsibility: Your camper has spent the last 3.5 weeks learning to clean up after themselves, 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 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 (Have a Good Week)!
Lisa David is serving in her fifth summer as Camp Harlam’s Director after 18 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.