The Jewish Identities We Formed at Camp Harlam

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Our Chavurah (rising 10th graders) campers led their last service as campers Saturday morning. Their theme was “identity” and how camp has helped them share their own identities over the years.

Wang, Jacob, Jack, & Ethan
When we were younger, we used to play with rocks at the chapel. We couldn’t focus on services, or maybe we didn’t care. Rocks are formed under tremendous amounts of heat and pressure over long periods of time. Once these conditions have occurred, the rocks are changed permanently.

This summer, as our last time as campers, we realized that our time at camp has permanently changed us too. Just like the rocks on the chapel. Now when we see rocks outside camp, we are reminded of the Jewish identity we formed here at Harlam.

Our time here has created lifelong friendships, unforgettable life experiences, and a connection to our culture and heritage. We are young Jews; our relationships are a representation of our Judaism living on. When the rock-hard relationships we formed at camp exist outside camp, we carry our Jewish identity with pride. May this summer cause permanent and meaningful changes in your lives.

Ben, Brendan, Saph, & Josh
Judaism is about building community. In Kineret, they [points to us] did not even like me much at all.At camp, my Jewish identity has been solidified because I am able to relate it to all the lifelong friends I have made here. During much reflection, throughout quarantine, I realized how important Judaism, camp, and the relationships I’ve made here are to me. The impact of this realization forced me to become less reserved around others outside of my immediate friends here. This year especially, at camp I have been much closer with many people I was not very close with before. I owe this to the unity that many camp traditions offer such as Shabbat, song session, services, and Maccabiah. Over the course of the pandemic, I did not focus on my Judaism, but coming to camp made it all come back to place. For me especially, the music that we create here at camp stays with me at home and is something that I will always relate Judaism to. Overall, the community built by this camp enriches various vital parts of our lives. To specify, these positive impacts, much of our Jewish and social lives are improved by camp.

Jonah, Ben, & Charlie
When I first met my closest friends in Kineret Boys 1, our only thing in common was being Jewish. Over the course of a month, we all grew and matured through Judaism. Bonding over Judaism is how I built connections with my first bunk.

At the beginning of my Kineret summer, I was unsure of how Judaism fit into my life. As the summer went on, I realized that Judaism was part of my life through the relationships I had made with my friends.

Throughout my first 3 years of camp, all it was to me was good cereal, bug juice, gaga, color war, and getting away from my parents. When Kineret started and I met who are now my closest friends, my mindset was the same. But as I matured with them, I realized that camp and Judaism are about building lifelong relationships and creating the best memories I’ve ever had. 5 years later, our connection to Judaism is closer than ever, and we’ve all come closer to our Jewish identity.

Sadie & Aviva
Judaism is an important part of our identities because of the community and friendships it has helped us create. As Kineret bunkmates, we formed a friendship that only would have been possible with the community Harlam provided for us. We started drifting apart and so did our relationship. Soon it seemed like we were strangers again. This could have been the end of our story, but after a year away from our second home and family, we realized how much this community meant to us. As soon as we saw each other again it was like nothing had changed since Kineret. Now it seems impossible to imagine spending my last year as a camper without my best friend by my side. This wouldn’t have been possible without the Jewish community and values that camp has given us. This community has helped strengthen our connection to Judaism and build our Jewish identities. Together, our shared experiences as Jews keeps us connected and helps our evolving Jewish identities. And when we feel alone we know we’ll always have our home.

As we walked into camp for the first time, clenching onto our parents scared of leaving them for 4 weeks, little did we know about the memories, Jewish growth, and friendships that would follow us for the next 7 years.

During our time as campers, we have learned valuable lessons that we want to share with you:
1. Leave song session with red hands
2. Don’t be afraid to branch out and make                 new friends
3. Lose your voice after singing Sim Shalom             (the right version)
4. Don’t complain about the Galil hike (the               memories are worth it)
5. Have dance parties in the dark
6. Don’t be scared to wear matching NJB                 shirts at Rak Dan
7. Lay on the basketball court and stargaze with your friends
8. Don’t take the village for granted (despite the toilets NEVER working)