Camp and summer romances go hand in hand, and once in a while those early relationships actually go the distance. We’re rounding up some great stories of young love that blossomed into real life marriage and delivering them to you in a monthly series called Summer Lovin’.
MARSHALL CARROLL and SHARON CHISVIN
We met at Camp Massad in Winnipeg Beach, Manitoba, Canada in 1981. I was a cabin counsellor and she was in charge of the counsellor-in-training program. As I unloaded mattresses off the camp van during training session, Sharon said to a friend “That’s the guy I am going to marry.”
Was it love right away?
I certainly noticed Sharon right away and during Israeli dancing, I would try to be paired up with her. She also took my hat during the “hat song.” At the second Rock & Roll Dance, we danced to Don’t You Want Me (by The Human League) together. We were then chosen to work together as Rosheem (heads) for Maccabia (color war). Even though our team, Ochel (Food) lost, we won!
We continued dating and got married four years later on June 6, 1985.
Will/did you send your kids to your camp?
We did. All three of our children attended Camp Massad for many years. Our eldest, Samara, was the Menahelet (camp director) for the past two years. Our middle child, Niri, was also on the senior administration. Our youngest, Gilad, is on the senior administration this year.
Marshall Carroll, 50, and Sharon Chisvin, 53, were both born in Winnipeg, Canada and have lived there most of their lives. He is a high school science teacher and sessional university lecturer. He went to Camp Massad from 1972-1984 (excluding 1983 when he volunteered on a Kibbutz). He is currently a lifetime Massad board member and the webmaster for the camp’s website. He is also a songwriter, actor and icebreaker workshop leader as well as Canada’s 4th Smartest Person. Sharon is a journalist, oral historian, and fiction writer. Her published work includes the children’s picture book “The Girl Who Cannot Eat Peanut Butter” and the social history “Our Musical Heritage: A Century of Jewish Music in Winnipeg.” She attended Camp Massad from 1969-1976, and 1981-1982 and is the past president of the camp’s board of directors.
I remember the meeting like it was yesterday. My parents drove me to the synagogue on a weekday evening for what they told me was going to be a ‘pizza party with all of my friends.’ What they didn’t tell me was that a man was going to be there representing a sleep-away Jewish summer camp in Wisconsin. Wisconsin!?! (I grew up in Memphis). My parents were right about all my friends being at the synagogue that night. We watched a movie about the camp, got to ask questions, and plotted secretly in the corner how we would make our escape from the camp should our parents actually send us away. Of course, our parents did end up sending us to that camp. And I went kicking and screaming.
Fast forward four weeks: four weeks of singing songs in Hebrew, of making new friends from places I’d never heard of (Omaha? Where’s that?), of playing kickball and swimming in the cold, fishy lake, of having no television, of being away from the comfort of home. That last day of camp, I remember clearly talking with that new friend from Nebraska as our ten year old selves plotted how we could avoid getting on the bus so we’d never have to leave this place. This place called ‘camp.’ Of course, our counselors did end up getting us on the bus home. But I went kicking and screaming. I didn’t want to leave.
And the truth is, I never did. I still go back to camp. This summer will be my 15th on staff. I am the starting second baseman on the senior staff softball team, not because of skill, but because of seniority; and I’m okay with that. And though my father-in-law has questioned if I might be too old for summer camp, my friends who grew up with me remain insanely jealous that I get to return to that amazing experience each summer. Is there a lesson in this? I have no idea. But I can tell you this: a couple of weeks ago I went on a road trip with a friend of mine. We’re in our thirties and jamming out to tunes from our youth with the windows down. And at one point during our drive, my buddy turned down the music and told me of his intention to propose to his longtime girlfriend in the coming weeks. When we got back to New York, where we live, he proposed. And the wedding? It’s scheduled for 2013…in Omaha.
Josh Levine is the director of Camp Alonim in Brandeis, CA.
One of the reasons I am delighted to be one of the regular bloggers in The Canteen is that at Camp Alonim, where I grew up and where I’ve been the director for the past three years, our canteen is a favorite spot. It’s where mail and packages are distributed each day. It’s where the campers go each night for their bedtime snacks. It’s where the boys and girls in each age group get to hang out together one more time before they wish each other a “laila tov” (good night) and go their separate ways. Mail, food, and being with friends – can you see why it’s such a popular place?
The Camp Alonim canteen, as a physical structure, is just a simple shed, really. It’s made of river-rock about four-feet high, then wood, capped by a shingled roof, with a large window built into one wall and a side door. It’s just a normal building – there’s nothing innately special about it. It’s what’s been done with it by human beings – it’s what we make of it and bring of ourselves to it – that makes it special. Its exterior design, which is best described as a groovy homage to Noah’s Ark, was painted years ago by staff members who wanted it to be kid-friendly and welcoming. The interior, which is not visible in the pictures posted here, is a dense swirl of people’s names and the years they were at camp. It’s a privilege to be old enough to get to “sign the canteen,” and it’s something which campers look forward for years. (“Why do you want to be CIT?” we ask in interviews. “Well, among other things, I want to finally sign my name in the canteen!”) Campers regularly crane their necks to locate the names of their counselors, and their counselors’ counselors. In doing so, they both feel connected to and aspire to a tradition that’s larger than themselves.
The Camp Alonim canteen is more than just a place at camp. It reflects a legacy that has been passed down from one generation to another, its timelessness magnified by its being re-created and re-fashioned by each successive iteration of camp citizens. It’s an example of something ordinary that, because of the visible and less-visible contributions of the community, has been made holy. It’s what countless individuals have called home. It’s alive. In other words, it’s Jewish.
This online canteen, as a virtual edifice, is just a simple website, really. It’s based on an HTML template and its data is hosted on servers somewhere in the cloud. Blogs can be about anything. This blog is, of course, already special because it’s about Jewish camp! But, this blog has the potential to be even more special because of the community that arises in, around, and through it – the community that can make it “camp.”
At Alonim, the canteen is a hub for mail, food, and friendship. My hope is for this online canteen to be a hub for all sorts of communication, mental nosh, and community building – in the posts themselves, in the comment threads, and perhaps beyond. “Camp” can happen in cyberspace, too – if we let it. A canteen isn’t a bad place to start.
Want fun crafts to teach your kids about this meaningful and complex holiday? How about activities to get them excited and involved in your family’s seder? Or games that get them asking questions? Download Camp Passover, a camp-themed Passover activity book for kids, here: http://www.jewishcamp.org/camp-passover
Jamie Simon and Aaron Mandel are the director and assistant director (respectively) of Camp Tawonga in Groveland, CA.
This first in a series of four blog entries, “Why Camp?” will examine some of the benefits that Jewish residential camping can provide for children based on the four part mission of Camp Tawonga.
Part 1: Positive Self-Image and Self-Esteem
For children, going away for the first time to overnight summer camp is a rite of passage, a major step in the growing up process and an incredible opportunity to pack years of growth and learning into a few short weeks. Some of the biggest benefits of the camp experience are the positive changes in a child’s self-image and self-esteem.
When a child comes to camp, it represents a fresh start, an opportunity to form a new identity outside of school, home and family. This “healthy separation” from some of the constants in life puts children in the position of making their own choices about everything from how to connect with their bunkmates to what to put on their plate for lunch! It also gives them a blank slate free of pre-existing pressure or judgments and allows them to be whoever they truly want to be.
Counselors and camp staff who reflect back and nurture all the special aspects of each child’s unique personality compliment the freedom of the summer camp experience. For the camper who harbors ambitions of being a famous artist but is too shy at home or school to give it a shot, there are friendly, encouraging staff at the arts & crafts studio to give them the skills and supplies to indulge their passion while showing how truly “cool” it is to put all your ideas, no matter how wacky, into action. For the camper who dreams at night of a future playing basketball for their high school, but fears they are too short or too small, there is a patient instructor who creates age-appropriate games and drills that develop skills alongside confidence.
By catering the camp experiences to the kids, instead of forcing kids to fit into a mold of what camp “should be,” individual expression and confidence is given room to blossom. A good camp program takes into account the age, skill and interest of the kids and leaves them feeling successful, independent and capable at the conclusion. When a camper completes a hike up a steep hill they were convinced they couldn’t climb or learns a dance routine they never thought they could master, that confidence and feeling of accomplishment gets stored away to be accessed at a later time when it is needed again.
When a camper comes home and shows their parents the art project they made and the photos of them completing an element on the ropes course, it will be as if a new child has returned, and indeed, one has. The camp experience gives kids the confidence to be themselves and to succeed in all aspects of their life as well as a source of strength to draw on when a challenge looms. They can picture their counselor encouraging them onwards and remember how great it felt when they received validation for simply being who they were.