Monthly Archives: March 2013

Neshama

Miriam Shwartz is the co-director of JCC Ranch Camp in Colorado’s Black Forest.

We’ve just passed the 10,000 feet mark on my flight back to Colorado. I’ve spent the last week at camping conferences in New York and New Jersey and although I am exhausted, I am also invigorated and enthused about getting back to the office and planning for this summer’s camp season. My head is full of ideas to share with my camp team, as well as hard questions that we must answer in order to push our camp to the next level.

miriamOver the past few days I attended some 40 hours of seminars on a variety of subjects related to the running of a stellar (Jewish) camp program, but here I want to share with you some of the learning that I took away from the very last presentation that I attended before heading out.  It was given by Molly Barker, the founder of “Girls on the Run,” a national program that empowers girls through the act of running and reflection. I hope that you will find meaning in this message and are able to take away something to incorporate into your own work and/or family life, as I intend to do myself.

Here is the message that resonated with me–

At our core, each of us has a divine spark, an energy that is uniquely our own. This might be referred to as our neshama (soul) in Hebrew. All too often along our life journey, our inner spark is diminished by those around us as and by society as a whole, which then can give way to negative self-talk. What we must do and strive for is to find space in our lives where all the “should’s” and “ought to’s” that we are served by others and by ourselves give way to our own inner power. In other words, we must find the strength to not let others define the spirit that is our self.

Here are some principles to live by from Molly and “Girls on the Run:”

  • Acknowledge and devote time to your own gifts and talents.
  • Surround yourself with others who balance and compliment you.
  • Embrace the ebb and flow of life.
  • Create intentional space for your work and personal life.

I believe that these principles are really lived out within the camp environment. Often I hear staff and campers say that they love camp because it is a place where they can “just be themselves.” At camp, both campers and staff are able to get in tune with their core essence, their neshama; we are able to provide a place where individuals feel that their inner spark is not only acknowledged, but is nourished to shine. Although there are a lot of great skills and take-homes that camp affords, I believe that this is perhaps the most important skill of all.

Posted on March 28, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Timely Growth

Rabbi Avi Katz Orlow is the Director of Jewish Education at the Foundation for Jewish Camp.

I am excited. Tonight we will begin celebrating Chag Ha Aviv Passover, our spring holiday – also named Chag HaMatzot the holiday of unleavened bread. But why do we eat unleavened bread – matzah –  on Passover? We read in the Haggadah:

Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before the King of the kings, the Holy One, blessed be God, revealed God’s self to them and redeemed them. Thus it is said: “They baked Matzah-cakes from the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, because it was not leavened; for they had been driven out of Egypt and could not delay, and they had also not prepared any [other] provisions.” (DIY Haggadah)

aviSo yes, as the Haggadah says, when the time came for the Jews to finally leave, they did not delay. Yet, the final plague was not the first time they heard of their pending exodus.  Moses came and told the slaves long in advance that they would be leaving. While they did not have Ziplocs and Tupperware to pack provisions for the trip, I still think they could have done a better job preparing for this arduous journey. They weathered the elements so well before that you’d assume they would have prepared some bagels for the trip.  Now wouldn’t a holiday where we just needed to eat a lot of bagels be a great one? So,why matzah?

It is understandable that the slaves would be reticent to leave the only world they knew, could it be that was not the only reason that they were not well prepared for their trip? We all run late, waiting until the last-minute to get things done. Even when  we are told that something is going to happen, or that we have an assignment, we can be surprised and unprepared when it comes to pass or be due. While completely natural and common place, this procrastination comes from an interesting lapse of faith. Maybe Pharaoh was not alone in doubting the God of the Israelites. While we call matzah “the bread of affliction,” it appears that the affliction itself is procrastination.

So we have Chag HaMatzot a holiday that you cannot do last-minute. We actually start to prepare for Passover a month in advance. As we eat this “bread of procrastination” it is a time to reflect on our faith. When I am running late or procrastinating, I assume that other people will understand because I am doing God’s work, but God forbid someone wastes my time… We all have ways we can grow; matzah is there to flatten us out and remind us that this growth might not fit neatly into our schedule.  Which is why I am excited, because after spring comes summer and with summer comes … camp a time for growth for so many of our children!

Posted on March 25, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Camp Is…

Molly Hott is the director of 92Y Passport NYC, a Jewish overnight camp based in New York City focusing on fashion, film, music, culinary arts, and musical theater.

mollyA very close and longtime friend read my first blog post and reminded me of a piece I had written years ago that I only shared with some of my nearest and dearest … my camp friends.  There was a point in my life and career when I couldn’t imagine living without camp but couldn’t configure how camp would fit in my life as an occupation.  There were so many positive experiences that connected me to camp, to my friends, my personal growth and acceptance and with all of those experiences came great emotion.  From that great emotion came:

CAMP IS…
Molly Hott, June 27, 2008

Camp is where I learned to be me
And where I let you know, it’s ok to be you

Camp is where I learned to make friends
And where I learned to be a friend

Camp is where I learned how to make my bed
And where I taught others about the importance of hospital corners

Camp is where I saw my first remembered sunset
And where I shared my first remembered sunrise

Camp is where I learned to hold hands confidently
And where I shared the importance of having a hand to hold

Camp is where I cried myself to sleep missing home
And where I cried so hard I couldn’t breathe when I had to leave

Camp is where I saw my first starry night
And where I shared the sighting of my first shooting star

Camp is where I sang and cheered until I had no voice left
And where I learned that my voice would never really come back

Camp is where I learned to respect, my counselors, my campers, my friends and myself
And where I learned about disciplining my staff, my campers, my friends and myself

Camp is where my sister and I became friends
And where I learned that my friends would become my sisters

Camp is where I learned to try everything and anything
And where I learned my strengths and weaknesses

Camp is where I learned that tears of joy can overwhelm you at any time
And where I learned that those tears turn to the greatest memories

Camp is where I learned to laugh until it hurt
And where I learned that laughing is the best medicine

Camp is where I learned to live with others and share common space
And where I learned that wearing the same thing every day is cool

Camp is where I learned how to separate my laundry
And where I learned that I would come home with none of my own clothes

Camp is where I learned I would sleep my deepest and most comfortably
And where I learned that waking up next to your friends every morning is treasured

Camp is where I learned about music and how to change the words to every great song
And where I learned that singing at the top of your lungs anywhere at any time with camp friends is acceptable

Camp is where I learned to love my counselors, my campers and my friends for who they are
And where I learned that each of these people would somehow remain in my life forever

Camp is where I learned about tradition, culture and spirit
And where I learned that these things can change but still remain the same

Camp is where I learned that there is no greater place to be
And where I learned that there is no greater experience for a child, an adult and for me

Camp is where I learned to be me
And where I let you know, it’s ok to be you.

To read this back, almost 5 years later and know that my feelings remain the same is amazing.  My relationships remain as strong if not stronger and my love of camp and the experiences it has enabled me to create continue to develop way beyond my wildest dreams…

Posted on March 22, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Kids and Kittens and Keeping Them Inside

Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book and blog Free-Range Kids. Her show “World’s Worst Mom” airs on Discovery/TLC International.

0170_120808-FJC_x_xReaders — This is such a fantastic example of the way our society is going: Better not to experience ANYTHING than to be exposed to a single ounce of RISK. That’s something that camp parents realize just doesn’t make sense. Apparently, some cat parents realize it, too.  This note comes to us from Julie Saxon, a university lecturer turned stay-at-mom of two in San Jose, CA. –  L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: Just wanted to share this story that happened yesterday. My family has decided it’s time to adopt a pet, and we’d like a cat or kitten.  My husband and I both grew up with cats in the household and we both had indoor/outdoor cats. I know there’s a lot of controversy about what’s best, but we both believe that it is better for the cat’s well-being to allowed outside sometimes.  (Plus no litter box is awesome!)

So we set out to a local pet store yesterday that was holding an adoption fair. It was being put on by a local cat rescue that had very specific requirements of the homes in which the cats are to be placed, and one — written into a contract — is that the kitten will be kept indoors only. So, obviously, this wasn’t the rescue for us. But what was really interesting was the rhetoric the volunteer used in trying to convince us that cats are better as indoor only. It mirrored almost exactly what the media is telling us about children!  Some of the things she told me:

* We all used to have outdoor cats when we were kids. Everyone did. But “things are different now.”

* The cats’ biggest problem is PREDATORS. We think it’s cars, but it’s not. It’s predators. She then began to speak about COYOTES, despite the fact that I live in the suburbs of a fairly big city and have never–NOT ONCE in the 16 years I’ve lived here–seen a coyote. Off-leash dogs, yes. Raccoons and possums, yes. Coyotes, not so much.

* Kittens should never be outside, and these in particular because they’ve never been outside. They don’t know how to be outside. (As if I’m going to toss the kitten in the front yard and let it fend for itself.)

* Indoor only cats live longer.

* Besides, they don’t know what they’re missing.

Whether you believe the same way as this volunteer regarding cats and kittens isn’t my point. But I was shocked at how closely animal rescue folks mimic helicopter parents or possibly vice versa. Have we reduced our children to the state of 4-month-old bottle-fed baby kittens? We have to keep them inside because they’ve never been outside and they would instantly become prey to wild predators? Training them isn’t even considered? Besides, depriving them of what comes naturally is fine because they will live longer and they don’t know any different anyway? Wow!  –  Julie

Posted on March 21, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

A Passover Cooking Experience (and Recipe)

Rachel Saks has an M.S. in Education and is a Registered Dietitian. She developed and ran Healthy Living, a Camp Ramah program that combines nutrition education, mindful eating, cooking instruction and physical activity. Rachel is also the co-author of “Jewish American Food Culture.”

Even though the Purim costumes have barely been packed away and there are still one or two lonely poppy seed hamentaschen sitting on your counter, it’s time to think about Passover.  Will you be having guests for seder or going to celebrate with friends and family?  Who will be invited?  What kind of haroset will you make this year?  What kind of medication will you stock in the medicine cabinet for the inevitable mid-week tummy troubles?  All of these are important questions to answer, but it’s also important to stop for a moment to think about another, slightly bigger question:  How will you engage your children in preparations for the holiday this year in a way that will bring your whole family a deeper, more spiritual understanding of Passover?

Sure, you can ask your children to help clean the house of chametz, but doing so won’t give them a context for understanding the holiday, primarily because it involves simply doing something rather than immersion in an experience. Jewish camps excel at experiential learning by creating a context for activities rather than going through the actions by rote.  Camps deeply engage campers with Judaism at a young age, leading them to develop a desire for connectivity to the Jewish community and to the formation of a strong Jewish identity.

RachelOne of the greatest and most exciting ways for kids to experience Judaism and Passover is in the kitchen.  With their hands in kugel and their minds on the laws of kashrut for Passover, kids have the opportunity to learn through doing on this holiday.  Teach them about what it means to be kosher-for-Passover and engage them in helping to prepare your kitchen for the holiday.  Work with your children to find interesting recipes and to plan, shop, and cook with them. Notice the pride they exhibit when mastering a task in the kitchen (just like the pride they had last summer when they perfected their 3-point shot or got up on water skis!) and revel in the fact that they are experiencing and understanding Passover on a whole new level.

Here are some tips to involve your children in the kitchen on Passover and the rest of the year, as well as a fun recipe to try together.  Planning, shopping and cooking can teach you and your family how to effectively connect to each other, to Judaism and to God on a deeper and more meaningful level.  Here’s how:

1. Plan it up!
Cooking with kids works better if they are involved in the planning and if they are given a specific job to do under light supervision.

2. Chop it up
Kids 3 years old and up can cut, as long as you give them a safe knife.  Give them a plastic disposable knife, plastic knives from a kids set, or a butter or dinner knife with a dulled edge.  Give them things that are easy to cut, like herbs, peeled fruit, zucchini, tomatoes and cucumbers.

3. Mix it up!
Kids love stirring and mixing things, but that doesn’t have to be limited to baking!  Have them help toss a salad, mix sauce into quinoa, or even mix spices together for an herb rub.

4. Mess it up!
Cooking with kids will be messy, but that’s okay!  Food will be spilled and clothes like likely get stained- so gets some aprons and let the fun begin!

5. Chat it up!
Try to use your time in the kitchen together to talk about food traditions, the spirituality of food, where food comes from, good nutrition and more.  The opportunity for these precious family moments should not be missed!

Kosher for Passover Zucchini Potato Kugel Muffins
Serves 10-12

Ingredients
5 medium baking potatoes
2 small zucchini
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 large yellow onion
5 cloves garlic
1 large spring fresh rosemary
4 whole eggs
4 egg whites
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup matzah cake meal
3 tablespoons potato starch
2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Using the shredding blade of a food processor, shred the potatoes (with the skin), zucchini, carrots, onions and rosemary leaves.
  3. Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and squeeze out the excess liquid (don’t worry about getting all of it out- there will always be more!)
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then stir in the remaining ingredients.
  5. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables and mix well.
  6. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray and heap the vegetables into the tins.  Pat down firmly.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the kugel seems to be firm and set and the top is browned and crispy.
  8. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving, or allow to cool and refrigerate up to 5 days (or freeze up to 3 months!)

Have a happy, delicious and meaningful Passover!

Posted on March 19, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The iPod Service: Camp, School and Tech

Sara Beth Berman is a Nadiv Educator working at URJ Camp Coleman in Cleveland, GA in the summer and The Davis Academy in Atlanta, Georgia during the school year.

“The Barchu is about being called to prayer” was how the prayer was introduced.  Carly Rae Jepsen’s saccharine tones skipped out of the speakers.

IPod

Photo by Walrick (Erick Ribeiro) GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons

Call me maybe?” I raised my eyebrows as I pondered the implications of asking kids to maybe, if they feel like it, engage in prayer.  Every head was bopping around to the song.  OK…OK, I can handle this.  Actually, this is…fun.  This is fun!

Just as this JTA piece on tech in camp was going to press, we were preparing to have an all-middle school iPod service at the Davis Academy.

I was, I am, and I always will be looking for good ways to engage my communities in tefillah, in prayer.  The creative and exciting programming that I have seen in my many years at camp ran the range from quietly standing at the edge of a lake to chanting loudly as a room echoed with a thunderstorm of voices.  Some of my more far-out tefillah experiences included snacks, scrolls, markers, chalk, mindful movement, and jumping, in unison and in complete silence.

How would the classic URJ Camp Coleman iPod service change if it was led by the kids and not the counselors?  We set out to answer this question at The Davis Academy last week.  The community is growing used to my outside-of-the-box (AKA camp-style) programming during tefillah.  They’re also getting used to the incredibly serious and thoughtful debrief questions I like to ask, which sometimes deeply engage the kids, and other times, get the kids to see their teachers as thoughtful, spiritual beings.

As each advisory group gathered in a circle on the “gymagogue” floor, iPods in hand, they were poised and ready to leap.  First, they had to figure out the meaning of the prayer on the page called out to them.  Then, they had to find a song that expressed the same ideas.  Finally, a select group of faculty chose a few songs per prayer, playing them for about 30 seconds over the loudspeakers.

Kids were poised, ready to jump, scurrying across the gym and begging to know what the next prayer would be.  One group cued up “All You Need Is Love” in anticipation of Ahavah Rabbah, which is about God’s great love.

At the end of tefillah, I heard the following things:
“What do you mean it’s over?”
“Can’t we do one more prayer?”
“That was fun,” they said.  “We should do this more often.”

And, from a teacher:
“They were SO into it!”

Camp and school came together that day.  And they were SO into it.

Posted on March 18, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

March Director’s Corner

Stefan Teodosic is the Executive Director of B’nai B’rith Beber Camp and the Perlman Conference Center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.

My mentor once told me that you could run camp in a parking lot if you had the best staff.  I agree completely and it is the individual staff member, as well as the Jewish community, that make camp transformational rather than merely transactional.   Jewish camp staff are the role models celebrating camper successes, providing a supportive shoulder to cry on, helping in activity areas and sitting with our kids during Shabbat services.   As a field, we realize the connection between 0686_110811-FJC_x46staff and mission delivery and recognize the need for a hyper-intentional staffing processes to ensure successful outcomes.  Each year, Jewish camp directors prepare their staff to make the most of these opportunities through intentional year round training strategies.

Most people think of staff training as the week before the kids get to camp, full of bonding, programming and planning.  While this week is critical to a good summer, Jewish camps begin preparing their staff much earlier to maximize the potential for a transformational summer experience.  The field is at a place where slipping into transactional territory is not an option and we are all working with year round staff training best practices.  A cornerstone of these best practices is a strategic, mission based staffing continuum that starts as soon as we wrap up the previous summer!  This staffing continuum includes the following phases:

- Staff selection: intentional selection of the best staff includes a cultural fit with the camp and the decision whether a staff will truly be able to embody the mission day to day, as well as experience with kids, specialty skills and Jewish background.

- Expectation setting: expectation setting includes the forms that they sign with their contract and the conversations that you have once they have accepted the position.  They need to be explicit and supported by multiple touch points leading up to their arrival at staff week.

- Face to face staff training: staff training week is a wonderful opportunity to take the expectations that we have pre-set to the next level.  It is also a time to immerse the staff in the camp culture and bond them as a skilled team around shared goals.

- Evaluation: over the course of the summer, the staff need to be supported and evaluated based on their performance with the goal of continuous development all summer.  Hopefully, the evaluations are both informal and formal, with the latter directly connected to the job description, interview process and expectation setting.

The best for-profit companies in the world use similar staffing processes to drive the best product results.  We are holding ourselves to the same rigorous staffing standards as we realize that Jewish camping is a critical vehicle for delivering the overall goals of the Jewish community.  Our non-profit statuses are just legal frameworks that permit us to not pay taxes based our missions and do not determine the way in which do business, including staff training.  Jewish camps operate with a high level of intentionality, we achieve our missions AND we offer our staff a transformational experience as well.  They participate in the most impactful, highest skill building, spiritual, life changing job they can do in their formative college years.  They positively impact children’s lives and gain skills on par with those acquired in non-camping internship/job positions.  They are the key to delivering our mission of world class child care, spectacular programming and unapologetic Judaics.

Jewish summer camps are constantly looking for ways to maximize mission delivery AND differentiate themselves in a marketplace filled with competitors, substitutes and alternatives for disposable dollars.  The field has appropriately rallied around the concept that concentrating on the core principals of selection, training and evaluation is the right course of action.   Investments in facilities and “wow” programming are important to the success of Jewish camps and I am not advocating for running things out of a parking lot by any means.  However, the investments that we make in training our staff each year have the highest rate of return for our campers experiences, our staff development and the long term outcomes that are core to the mission of every Jewish camp.

Posted on March 14, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Chocolate Makes Everything Taste Better

Lauri Exley lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband, four-year-old daughter and 18-month-old son.

Charoset, fried matzo, wine, matzo meal bagels, matzo pizza, marshmallows and family. All of these things, and more, are why Passover is and has always been my favorite holiday. Sure, people moan and groan about the dry, tasteless food, but I love it! My favorite memories are of my mother and me using matzo meal to make virtually everything and I have always enjoyed finding new ways to use it (even if bagels and donuts end up having the same taste). In recent years, it has become much easier to keep Kosher for Passover, with more variety and flavor in the food, but I am always searching for something new.

My mother-in-law loves to cook and bake. She has a treasure trove of recipes; each one tops the next. I discovered a recipe she had for something called “Saltine Chocolate Pieces” and after we made them together, and of course ate them, I knew this was a recipe I had to have. The end result is something similar to toffee brittle using saltine crackers. Having spent so many years suffering through store-bought Passover treats, I immediately thought about how great this would taste if I replaced the saltines with matzo.

Photo courtesy of tastytouring

Photo courtesy of tastytouring

Chocolate-covered matzo is one of the first items to fly off grocery shelves during the Passover season. So, using my mother-in-law’s recipe, I decided to make a variation of my own. (Upon writing this blog entry, I have discovered that other people have discovered this wonderful creation as well, so I cannot claim it as my own original idea).

Sure, I will continue to make matzo meal bagels and fried matzo every year (can’t forget the classics), but it’s nice to be able to add new, tastier foods to the mix – creating new memories and traditions with my kids.

Matzo Chocolate Pieces (aka Matzo Crunch)
Ingredients:

- 4-6 unsalted matzo
– 1 c brown sugar
– 1 c butter
– 12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
– 3/4 c chopped nuts

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a 10×15-inch cookie sheet with foil; place a sheet of parchment paper on top of the foil (very important).
  2. Cover the cookie sheet with a layer of matzo.
  3. Boil sugar and butter in saucepan for 4 minutes.
  4. Pour mixture over matzo and spread evenly.
  5. Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven.
  7. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.
  8. Let set and cool for 1 minute, then spread the melted chips over the matzo with a spatula.
  9. Sprinkle the chopped nuts on top, then press down lightly.
  10. Cool until firm and cut into diagonal pieces. Pieces can be frozen.

Yields approximately 30 pieces.

Looking for a camp-y Passover dessert to serve alongside this delicious treat?  Try these yummy Matzo S’mores from ingredientsinc.com!

Posted on March 13, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Am I Really This Typical?

Sheira Director-Nowack is the associate director of Camp JRF in South Sterling, PA.

As a Jewish camping professional for the past 20 years, I have been cheer-leading, encouraging and convincing parents of the benefits of sleep away camp for their children. I have been proudly telling people how almost all of my wedding party went to camp with me (and there were eight bridesmaids…don’t ask); that when my father passed away (I was 15), the first people at his funeral were my camp friends and they made sitting shiva a less awkward experience for such a young person. These young women and men changed my life. They taught me about being proud of who I was/am, they lived through the struggles of adolescence with me and I am VERY proud to say I keep in touch with the 30 women from my age group in camp.

Copy of SheiraAt 40, I am now the proud mother of the most amazing 8 1/2 year old ever to walk this planet (no bias there of course) and she will be going to sleepaway camp for the first time this summer. I mean, she has been at camp her whole life: she learned to walk at camp and when we adopted her from China, the whole camp and all the parents of our campers cheered. The Jewish camping community has been a constant in helping me and my husband raise our daughter. This summer though, it will be different… She will be living in a bunk, away from us, for the first time. (By “away from us” I mean less than a mile from my camp house…) This has been a HUGE learning experience!

I think to all the parents over the years who gave me their child’s specific regimen of face washing as I smiled and told them it would all be ok. To the parents that tried to explain every detail about their child to me so we could encourage their son to swim or their daughter to enjoy art.  I think to the parents of a child who had special needs and going over their child’s medication regimen for like 40 minutes while I wrote the information down … even though it was all given to our medication distributor and our nurses. I think to the parent who had to ask me for financial aid to try to give their children a Jewish experience in an otherwise not so Jewish world. I think of all the hopeful moments when parents wished that this camp experience would help their child become a better person, a better Jew, a better anything, and I am humbled.

Truth be told, I am petrified for my daughter and for our family. My husband and I waited for three years to adopt her from China and now someone else is going to be taking care of her for the summer?  Someone who might not know that she likes ketchup on her hotdogs and BBQ sauce on her chicken nuggets?  Some wonderfully intelligent young woman (who I interviewed and hired!) who might not be aware of what “that face” looks like… the one right before she starts to cry.  WHAT AM I DOING?!?!

Then the other part of me comes into play… the part of me that is THRILLED for her to come into her own surrounded by loving and caring Jewish values. The part of me that knows that the people she will meet will influence her to become someone more than who she already is.  She is going to learn to LOVE to be in a Jewish world, share her identity, her interests, and her ideas with other kids.  She is going to gain more independence, learn about others and herself and have influences that I could never provide her.  She is going to have strong young men and women to look up to and to role model.  She is going to learn to brush her own hair, make her own bed, clean up after herself, pick her own food, laugh at what SHE thinks is funny, roll her eyes at the people in charge, dance in the rain and ignore the adults as she giggles with her friends because of something RIDICULOUSLY silly that someone said.

The notion that others will have an effect on her is what I think I get a tad nervous about for a moment.  I think to the gorgeous little girl who they put in our arms in an orphanage, and I am teary-eyed about her growing up.  I mean, I knew it was going to happen but it seems to have gone EXTREMELY fast. The reality is that someone once told me everyday your children are growing away from you and into themselves. This step into the sleep away camp world is just a more concrete way of seeing that.   I think again to all the parents who are crying as they roll out of camp.  I think to how happy I am when they leave and we are just us…the camp world…ready to do all these incredible things for children…and I think perhaps I have been a tad hard on them.  I think that I am going to have more patience and more unconditional love to my fellow mommies and daddies who really just want their most precious and loved child to just be ok.

I think the most important lesson I have learned in this is that we are all always growing.  I trust my camp sooooo much.  However, I will never again think that a parent is giving me too much information, I will never again wonder why Mr. So-and-So is calling me for the fifth time this week, I will never again giggle inside when a parent tells me they only got three letters this week from their daughter or tells me that the counselor looks awfully young and am I sure she/he can handle their child. I have made myself a promise that I will share with all of you: I will not call myself everyday to see how my daughter is doing (as I am the person who speaks to all the parents); I will not ask her rosh eidah (unit leader) if she is washing her hair; and when I see her at breakfast in some outfit that looks like she got dressed in the dark, I will not cry … well at least not in front of her….

Posted on March 12, 2013

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Epic Memories of Camp

Noam Slomovic is 13 years old, lives in New York City, and has been attending Camp Moshava in Honesdale, PA for four years.

I can’t believe it – camp is only three months away!  Well, actually to be exact it’s 113 days away, and as the summer approaches, I think about the many epic memories of my camp life. I have gone to Camp Moshava for the past four years, and from those few months of my life I have the greatest memories ever. Most memories are top secret so I cannot share them with the public. (That is one amazing thing about camp.) But for this blog I decided to share one in particular.

Copy of Camp_Ramah_0125_IMG_8775On the last night of my third summer at camp I had the time of my life.  It was packing day and it could have been the most hectic day in all of camp history. You could hear counselors and kids screaming at the top of their lungs saying, “Get your things on the truck!”

My bunk was the last bunk to finish packing.  We were all going crazy because of what was going to happen that night, the “banquet.”  Everyone in camp loved the banquet for one reason, the food.  However this year we were in for a little surprise, instead of having the norm – spicy wings, mini hot dogs, wings, burgers, and chicken, they had pita and falafel. People were clearly very unhappy. However, this banquet still could have been the best, for one reason, we were not there. We were outside on the dining hall porch just chatting, and that’s when the fun began. The second we realized that the singing and dancing at the banquet had ended we ran to our bunk and started the party.  We had been planning this party for two weeks; we had saved so much food that it took up half the bunk, we were ready to party.

As we started stuffing our faces with food, we launched our karaoke contest. Eight people were singers and we had one DJ and three judges. At about 1:00am we started. Everyone chose a different song to sing.  After each round we would eliminate one person from the contest.  No one was offended if they were eliminated because they knew it was just because the contest was all in fun.  I was one of the judges. My fellow judges and I took five minutes to decide who would be eliminated after every round, so clearly we took this very seriously. It was 3:30am when we finished.  At 6:00 we decided to watch the sun come up.

I wanted to share this particular memory because it just shows that camp is mostly about the friends you make and how you spend time with them. Although many activities at camp are very enjoyable, the main reason I go to camp is to spend quality time with my friends.

Posted on March 11, 2013

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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