What’s Learned Here, Leaves Here

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By Lisa David

At Harlam, we seek to create an open and safe community. As such, when beginning some more sensitive or complex conversations and programs, we begin by setting some ground rules for the experience. One that always resonates for me, both in the moment and now as I anticipate the conclusion of our session, is the phrase, “What’s said here, stays here; What’s learned here, leaves here.”

I’m sure that all of you are eagerly anticipated being reunited with your campers (and perhaps less so their laundry!). And truthfully, they are, too (and perhaps more so with their electronics, air conditioning, and cozy bed). And yet – when you inevitably get to the time where they have gotten some sleep, and filled their bellies with favorite foods, and seem ready to share their summer stories, it may be hard for them to put into words exactly what has happened here.

How can they put into words the feeling of comfort when they sway arm-in-arm with their bunkmates each night and sing our nighttime blessing, Siyum l’yom. How can they explain how their breath was taken away when they searched the sky on a dark, cool night and spotted a shooting star? How do they explain laughing until tears formed at some absurd inside joke that they can now barely remember? How do they describe how it felt when their counselors, whom they adored, coined a new nickname for them or validated the strength they never saw in themselves? And how can they convey the depth of their connection to people that may have been strangers merely 3.5 weeks ago?

Though as the saying above explains, they may not be able to share exactly what they said, and did, and every detail of what made their time at Harlam so special, they are certainly leaving with lots of growth, confidence, pride in their Jewish identity, and connection to their Jewish community.

While not every camper may have been 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 hope these prompts might get the conversation started.

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.

Lisa David is Camp Harlam’s Director, a former Harlam camper and staff member, and a proud parent of 3 Harlam campers.