It’s hard to believe, but I’m two weeks in to my second summer as a Yoetzet (parent liaison) at Camp Ramah New England. I work with the youngest campers, who stay for a two week mini-session. My first group of campers went home yesterday, and a new group will arrive tomorrow. The time is going so fast. I hate to pull myself out of the “now” to write a blog post… but I also don’t want to miss the opportunity to record my reflections on this very special experience.
So, here are a few images and reflections on the past couple of weeks at Camp Ramah.
I feel so grateful to start every day surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature. The first sound I hear when I wake up are birds chirping outside my window. I walk through camp, absorbing the stately beauty of the trees, the bold expanse of the sky, and the magical twinkle of the lake.
The daily schedule begins with Tefillot (a short prayer service), which each age group (edah) does at the same time, but in different locations. Most days, I am with my group– and it’s such a fun way to start the day, singing prayers with my eight and nine year olds. Other days, I don’t make it to Tefillot on time. I like this just as much, because I get to walk through camp, and hear the prayers of each group that I pass, ringing out with joy- a group of nine year olds with their spirited, cheerful shouts erupting from a screened-in pavilion, followed by the lower, but just as boisterous chants of the eleven and twelve year olds who get the prime prayer spot on the tented porch overlooking the lake. A cacophony of traditional melodies plus updated tunes, combined with ancient words, intertwined with personal reflections. It’s like walking through a patchwork quilt of music, hope, poetry and dreams.
The rest of my day consists of traveling throughout camp, checking in on various campers, and attending different types of meetings. Planning meetings, meetings with the other parent liaisons, meetings (both formal and informal) with the counselors from my edah. My role as parent liaison is interesting, challenging, fun and all-consuming. If it was just a “regular job”, it would be satisfying work.
But it’s not a “regular job”, because it’s tied in to the mission of camp, which is to provide an outstanding, transformative Jewish experience for everyone in the community- over the course of not just one summer, but over the course of many years. I love that. I love the impact that camp has on my campers and my staff. I love the impact that camp has on me and my family.
My children love camp. The are nurtured, loved, cherished and challenged at camp.
Camp Ramah helps them find their best selves.
My family thrives at camp. We have time to grow ourselves, and time to come together. We have the opportunity, away from the pressures and responsibilities of the outside world, to connect to one another in a deeper way. It’s so good for us.
When I was a classroom teacher, we used to talk a lot about creating “shared experiences” in order to create classroom community. Do a read-aloud as a whole class, go on a fun field trip, have a class pet so that everyone has the chance to care for this creature together.
Being at camp is like participating in one enormous, shared experience… but one that doesn’t just last for brief moment of a school year. It spans over decades, and even generations.
My favorite moment so far this summer was at the first Havdallah of camp. Havdallah is the ceremony that marks the end of Shabbat, and the transition into the new week. According to tradition, Shabbat is over when you can see three stars in the sky. A group of boys from my edah had been hanging out on the porch of their bunch for fifteen or twenty minutes. All of a sudden, they started yelling and pointing. “Stars! Stars! There’s one… two…. three!! It’s time for Havdallah!!” We rounded up the edah, and made a huge circle on the grass in the middle of the field. Candles, grape juice, spices and song. I looked around that circle, trying to soak it all in. The faces of the campers, all of whom were experiencing Havdallah as campers for the very first time. The faces of the counselors, many of whom had grown up at Ramah, but were experiencing their first Havdallah as staff. Eight year olds and eighteen year olds. Ten summers can go by in a flash.
I vowed to appreciate every summer that I’m fortunate enough to spend at camp. Ten summers can go by in a flash, and I want to cherish each and every one.