Tag Archives: Camp Directors

Closing Time

As the Semisonic song goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” And as we wrap up our Ranch Camp summer and I reflect back on our season, this seems to ring especially true. It’s not simply the succession of the summer, where one session ends only to usher in the next. For me it is the sense that everything is connected and that everything happens for a reason; and that one thing always leads us to another.

miriamWith this philosophy in mind, you will understand and appreciate that August/September is my favorite time of year. Now is the time when we clean and pack-up camp, rummage through mounds of lost and found, and get feedback from our families and staff. I cannot tell you how gratifying it is to hear from families about the wonderful experiences that their children have had over the summer with us at camp – learning new skills, meeting new friends, and asking important questions about themselves and the world. Of course, I would be amiss if I did not also recognize that some of this feedback is not always so positive or easy to hear. But I want to take this opportunity to state very clearly from a camp director’s perspective, so that everyone knows – as wonderful as it is to get compliments, it is critical to receive and accept criticism as well. After all, as James Joyce said, “Mistakes are portals of discovery.” It is truly rare in life that we improve as a result of success; we must struggle, and sometimes fail, in order to achieve greatness.

With our successes and failures, we become stronger as a camp, just as our campers become stronger from the opportunities and challenges that they face during their time with us. As your children’s camp season finishes for the summer, I encourage parents to fill out your camp’s end of the season survey and let them know how they have impacted your children this summer. Sifting through this information helps camp teams to pull together and start to plan for the next summer season. As I said at the start of this piece, this is a wonderful time of year. From where I stand now, I can see all of what we have accomplished over the course of the last 10 weeks since the start of camp, but I can also see all the potential of what is yet to come; all of the new beginnings that will emerge from closing and reflecting upon the end of this season.

Posted on August 29, 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

Walking the Walk: On Welcoming a Transgender Bunk Counselor

Amit Schwalb GanThis summer, Habonim Dror Camp Na’aleh did something unprecedented at Jewish camp – we had a transgender bunk counselor. At Camp Na’aleh we live according to the values of Habonim Dror and the kibbutz movement. Campers and staff at Na’aleh integrate the values of cooperation, equality and activism into their everyday experience at camp. So when I was approached during the past year by Amit Schwalb, a transgender staff member, about shifting his role from garden specialist to bunk counselor, my first instinct was not to ask, “Are we ready to have a transgender staff member living with kids.” It was to ask, “How can we make this happen?”

As camp directors we are faced with difficult decisions on a daily basis. We are consistently put to the test. We hope and pray with each decision we make, that our collective experience doesn’t fail us and we make the right choices. But every now and again we are faced with something new, something we’ve never dealt with before and experience isn’t something we can fall back on. That was where I was as I started to explore honoring Amit’s request.

At Na’aleh we pride ourselves on being an incredibly welcoming community. An inclusive, encouraging, safe environment for children and staff members from all walks of life. We have sporty and non-sporty campers. We have day school kids and non-day school kids. We have campers who have been adopted from other countries and we have both campers and staff who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. Every summer and throughout the year we build this incredible community where no matter who you are, you feel welcome.

naalehAmit has been a camper and staff member at Na’aleh since the summer of 2004. He has been our gan (garden) specialist for the last two summers and in 2012 he fully came out as transgender. When his request to live in a bunk was brought to my attention, I understandably had concerns. Amit’s current position as gan specialist didn’t require him to live with campers as he is part of the technical/specialty staff and not a general bunk counselor. I wondered what limitations there would be in this new arrangement by making a change to living with campers. There were a number of other concerns, but despite any of them, I never once questioned whether our campers and staff would embrace this unprecedented arrangement. Our staff, campers and I respect Amit, trust him, and love him.

Since this was uncharted territory for me, and, as I later discovered, unprecedented in the entire Jewish camp world, I solicited opinions from other camp directors and professionals in the camping field. Some were encouraging, and many raised their own concerns. When I sat down to discuss all my thoughts with Amit, my decision was made easy. I asked him a question: “Why do you want this?” Amit replied with one simple answer, he said that as gan specialist he isn’t able to create the same bonds and connections with campers that the bunk counselors do. He felt as though he was missing out on something in his camp experience. By being a bunk counselor, living with campers, helping them when they are homesick at night, being there to wake them up in the morning, cheering their accomplishments, encouraging something new or just hanging out and playing cards during free time, would give him the opportunity to develop these connections.

This beautiful answer that completely embodies the immense responsibility of being a summer camp counselor made my decision incredibly easy. All my questions that came afterwards were essentially meaningless; we were going to make this happen.

We put together a plan that took into consideration Amit’s comfort, that of the campers and of course, their parents. The plan, an affirmation of our commitment to Amit (and to every member of our community!) was sent to the parents. The response we received was only positive and encouraging, reconfirming that we were moving in the right direction. Amit and his campers had an incredibly rewarding summer. Not only was he able to make stronger connections with the campers in the bunk, but he was also able to be a part of real transformative moments outside the cabin as well. Amit hiked with the campers on their group tiyul (hiking trip) and spent time talking about their home lives and educating them about his. He also got to be a part of some really silly group moments that they all remember fondly. None of these things would have been possible if Amit wasn’t living with these campers and a part of their group this summer.

When I think back now on the process of making this decision, I think it’s really all about trust. I had trust in Amit, and I had trust in our campers, but more importantly I trusted our community. One of the parents said to me in an email response that this was a wonderful example of being able to walk the walk on many of the messages that we discuss in our families and the values we try to teach our kids.

We are all really proud of the fact that Na’aleh is the first Jewish camp to have a transgender staff person living with campers of the same gender they identify with. We are even prouder that we have a community that lives its values to the fullest, even when it may not seem easy at the onset. Beautiful things are capable of happening at a Jewish summer camp, especially when each camp isn’t afraid to live its own values to the fullest.

Posted on August 26, 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

Sisters and Brothers, Brothers and Sisters

©Next Exit Photography www.nextexitphotographyA colleague who I trust and admire recently shared with me a New York Times piece she wrote about sending her children to camp. She wondered why it was that her children — one boy and one girl — should have to be separated at camp. They have always shared a room and she was rightfully proud of the connection she and her husband had helped their kids to form. Even though she was committed to the endeavor of summer camp, she couldn’t understand why she would want to put the kids in a situation where they would, by necessity, be separated.

I thought about her post a lot over the weeks after I read it. I kept trying to see if I could get on board with her idea that coed cabins would be ideal for her kids. And I just couldn’t seem to wrap my head around it. I was so impressed by the relationship she described between her kids, but I couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t be apart while at camp.

And then, as so often happens over the long days at camp, I had a moment where it all became clear. I realized that, when siblings come to camp together, they can explore how best to be in a relationship with one another, without having their parents’ influence or input. (I often say that camp is about making kids their best selves. Perhaps it is also about making relationships between siblings and friends the best they can be.) Last Friday morning, our teen campers returned from four weeks in Israel. They got off the bus and, quite literally, ran towards their siblings. After a life changing experience, all they wanted to do was to hug their brothers and sisters. And the next day, when we took sibling and family pictures, we watched kids stand together, help each other comb their hair, and smile for their parents.

We started taking sibling pictures a few years ago because parents wanted to see their kids smiling together. A parent wrote to me the other day that this year’s picture of her kids “made her week.” It’s as if parents don’t believe that their children could really get along as well as the pictures show. But they do get along that well. They do want to see each other. They do want to hang out together. And they do want to share their experiences with each other. Why? Because, at the core, they are family. And we want nothing more than for our kids to feel deeply connected to their family — whether blood relatives or people who are so close that they might as well be part of our family tree. When we send them to camp and separate them from their siblings, we often do so with the desire for them to have an opportunity to be their own person. And that is great. But it’s also great for them to have the opportunity to show who they are in relationship to their siblings in an environment of their peers. Letting kids act this out now will only help them later in life, when they are out in the “real world” interacting with each other. Giving them an opportunity to build a parent-free bond at camp is great training for the future of our families, and of our world.

So do I think we should have sibling bunks? I’m not sure I’m there yet. But do I think it would be great for parents to encourage siblings to strengthen their relationships while at camp? Absolutely!

Posted on August 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

Jewish Peoplehood at Camp

0802_110811-FJC_x46The Jewish values of Klal Yisrael and Am Yisrael speak to an idea of Jewish peoplehood and Jewish communal unity that are often described in the past tense, as some relic of days gone by.  At Camp Tawonga, in this moment, these values are alive, and flourishing among the Jewish camping community.

This summer, Tawonga endured a tragic incident that claimed the life of one of our beloved staff members.  This experience has been unbelievably sad and trying for everyone who is part of this large, loving and caring community.

When a tragedy strikes it is easy to shrivel up and shut out those around us.  Similarly, when something happens far away, it can be easy to thank our lucky stars it did not affect us directly and move on.  Our Jewish tradition teaches us to ignore this path, and to seek help when in need and to give support when those in your circle need it most.

From the moment that our community began hurting, grieving and being in need of help, it came.  No one decided to simply be grateful that they could go on unaffected in their own lives; instead, they took the ideas of Klal Yisrael and Am Yisrael to heart and reached out.

Local therapists and grief counselors from our community and from places like The Bay Area Jewish Healing Center and Jewish Family and Children’s Services offered support immediately and came to our remote location to help us in a time of need.

Our “neighborhood” camps in California like URJ Camp Newman, Camp JCA Shalom, Ramah California, Camp Hess Kramer and many more  - sent condolence cards, said Kaddish at their services and even donated to us one of their holy ark’s.

Camps from around North America sent messages of strength and condolence.  In the midst of their busy summer seasons, many offered to send us their staff if they were needed.  The Foundation for Jewish Camp and the Jewish Community Center Association, who provide support and guidance on movement levels across Jewish camping, reached out immediately to support us.

Many local rabbis were the first to call.  Rabbi Dev Noily and Rabbi Chai Levy joined our community to lead services and offer support.  Rabbi Levy wrote a wonderful piece after her time with us.

This entry could stretch on endlessly about the people and organizations that continually offer support to our Jewish community.  We will absolutely reach out when we are able to express our deepest and sincerest gratitude to them all.

We read week after week in this blog about the transformative power that the Jewish communal experience known as summer camp can offer.  We read about the joy, the fun and the lifelong bonds that are created.  We learn about the incredible communities each camp creates for its campers and staff.  Through the many contributors herein, we continually discover the larger community of Jewish camps  across North America.

If the measure of a community is how it responds during times of crisis, our Jewish camping community is rock solid.

Posted on August 2, 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

What Capture The Flag Has to Do With the Torah

miriamWe have just begun our third and final session for the summer here at Ranch Camp. With just shy of 210 campers, camp is abuzz with constant noise, activity, and fun.

The other night we had our traditional second night game of Capture the Degel (flag), which pits adom (red) against kachol (blue). All the campers run back to their cabins after dinner to dress in their team colors and mentally prepare for the game at hand. Then everyone gathers at the designated “Center Line” to rally their team and begin to play. Capture the Degel is definitely a camper favorite and is an activity that is greatly anticipated and looked forward to by all. Perhaps it’s the sense of competition, or the ability to roam around camp with a sense of freedom but also with purpose, or maybe its that the game arouses a deep-seeded sense of tribalism within our human psyche. Whatever it is about this game that makes it so beloved, a camp session would not be complete without it.

Although it might not appear so at first glance, Capture the Degel is a great teaching-learning opportunity within our camp environment. To begin with, the game is all about teamwork. Even though it seems like it is each man for himself out there in the field, you are not striving for personal glory but rather for team honor. There is a common goal (to find and capture the other team’s degel) but each person must do their part, and sometimes make personal sacrifices, in order to achieve the ultimate goal at hand. This game also reinforces our summer theme of kehillah (community). As opposed to most of the activities that we do at camp during a session, Capture the Degel divides the camp into two teams and this means that campers of all ages, banim (boys) and banot (girls), get mixed together and have a chance to interact. It is really neat to see our youngest campers side-by-side with our oldest campers and witness how they support and encourage one another during the game. Smaller campers are often faster and more stealthy than their older camper peers, while older and more experienced campers can offer strength, stamina, and strategy. In this way, everyone has a sense of value and worth and each individual is a commodity to their team.

Last Shabbat we read the portion Va-etchanan, where we read the Shema and Ten Commandments. It’s an incredibly important parasha that has informed the fundamental principles of modern human society. It speaks to the oneness of G-d, of each individual who was made in G-d’s image, and outlines how we should treat one another. Activities that we do at camp, like Capture the Degel, give children a hands-on opportunity to live and experience these principles first hand, making them stronger as individuals and making us a tighter kehillah.

Shabbat Shalom!
Miriam and Gilad

Posted on July 26, 2013

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Standing Up to Bullying

Watch this moving short video about Eisner and Crane Lake Camps’ work educating students about bullying:

This was a day unlike any other in my 19 years with Eisner and Crane Lake Camps — in the most remarkable and beautiful way. For years, our camp community has heard me speak about Eisner and Crane Lake Camps under a “bubble.” We want camp to be a safe space where people can be themselves in all of their diversity and uniqueness, knowing they wouldn’t be judged. Over the past year, it has become clear to me that we needed to do what we could to push the safety of that bubble out into the communities where our campers and staff live. We’ve heard story after story of kids being victimized by bullies— story after story of kids taking their own lives due to bullying. And we know that as Jews, we can’t stand idly by the suffering of our neighbors.

Our second-year Olim Fellows (leadership program for second year staff) had an incredible experience at their retreat at Camp Coleman in the fall of 2012, where together we viewed the documentary “Bully,” about communities across the country and their struggles with the realities of bullying in their school systems. The Olim Fellows came away determined to create a day of programming which would inspire the campers and staff of Eisner and Crane Lake Camps to be the change we want to see in the world when it comes to bullying.

The day began with the entire Eisner community in the Beit Tefilah, our outdoor sanctuary. It began with the Jewish story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, when hurtful words and actions tore apart a community that stood by rather than stood up. It continued with the refrain of a brand new song that artist in residence, Alan Goodis, wrote with the help of Eisner campers all this week. “You can beat me up, tear me down, I will not hide/’Cause I got a feeling that everything will be alright.” Together, we set the stage for a day that would be about both acknowledging the realities of bullying and committing ourselves to changing the world through our actions.

Campers and staff experienced the meaningful programming our Olim Fellows created. We reflected on the reality that, when we feel good about ourselves, we neither bully nor are susceptible to bullies. Each camper shared what made them proudest about themselves; each camper took the opportunity to practice finding the good in each person; each camper had a role-play experience of being the bully and someone who was being bullied, all of us learned how to stand up against bullies and stand up for victims of bullying.

Each unit also spent some incredible, emotional time with David Long. David and his wife Tina’s son Tyler lost his life to bullycide three and a half years ago after years of abuse and bullying. Their story was one of the five stories told in the “Bully” documentary. David shared the work that he and his foundation, “Everything Starts With 1,” are doing to teach young people about the scourge of bullying, and to teach educators of all kinds to respond effectively to that behavior. Mr. Long challenged all of us to be “upstanders” rather than “bystanders”– to use our voices to combat bullying wherever we encounter it, and to intervene rather than let our friends be victims of bullying.

Our campers responded deeply with his emotional presentation, asking questions about how they each can combat this behavior, sharing experiences of what it feels like to be the object of bullying, and beginning to imagine what it might look like to act against bullying back home. I was so proud of our Olim Fellows, our staff, and our faculty as they guided us through break-out discussions after these sessions to check in with how the kids had responded to the sessions; it was clear that although most kids had experienced some form of anti-bullying programming in their schools, this day felt different somehow– more personal because of David Long’s presentation, more real because of the incredible experience the Olim Fellows created for us all, more attainable because of the chance to put what we were learning immediately into action at Eisner Camp.

As Shabbat approached, we came together for Kabbalat Shabbat as a camp, to sing songs greeting Shabbat, and to reflect on the lessons we learned in this incredible day. Each camper had written on an index card a behavior that they weren’t proud of– some way in which they had excluded someone; something they had done with regards to bullying they wished they had done differently. We took those cards and burned them in a bonfire, affirming that we can let go of old patterns of behavior. We can change, we can begin that process here at camp and continue it back home. So, too, each camper had written an oath on a piece of ribbon. Each camper wrote their own oath about what they would commit to do going forward. They each made a promise about how they would combat bullying everywhere they encountered it. Those oaths were tied to the edges of a permanent sukkah that our art and maintenance staff had created. Each of us then walked through that sukkah– a shelter of peace, as we made our way back to the Beit Tefillah for Erev Shabbat services lead beautifully by Bonim, our 4th and 5th grade campers.

Today was an extraordinary day at Eisner Camp, because we each resolved to push that bubble out– expand that sukkah of peace, that we might make the world better and safer because we’re in it.

Posted on July 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

Can We Really Unplug?

There was recently an article about how camps can help kids unplug from their everyday lives. We read it (online, of course!) while noting the irony that so many of our camps are “electronics free” but we – the directors, assistant directors, and other senior staff members – cringe at the thought of being off-line for even an hour during the summer. While we tout the importance of campers unplugging, we start to sweat the moment our e-mail goes down.

jrfWhen did this happen? When did technology take over our camps? When did a handwritten list handed to a staff member make us appear out-of-date or disorganized? When did a photographer with a digital camera and Bunk1 access become a necessary position? We are in our late 30s and early 40s; while we are fairly computer savvy, we are still very much able to play the “I am older than cell phones” card with our staff. We remember calling home from a payphone and our parents exclaiming that we sounded “just like we’re next door!”

Don’t get us wrong – we aren’t scared of change; there are both good and bad things that come from more technology. We’re just confused. We recall a time, not so long ago, when camps were in their own bubbles. The “outside world” had little effect on our campers’ lives. Now, within five minutes of the recent Supreme Court decision on DOMA, we were celebrating and sharing the information with our campers and staff. And when a camper asked the details of how the Court voted, we didn’t hesitate to run to the internet to get him the information. And it’s not only about the outside world – it’s also about our camper families. We answer parents (including our own) about when photos will be up, what we’re eating for lunch, and why a child doesn’t appear to be wearing sunscreen. We e-mail parents en masse to keep them updated and we post to Facebook regularly (including from our cell phones when the power goes out!).

On the other hand, we expect that our campers will have no access to any of this technology. We require that all approved electronics are in airplane mode – and we are envious of those camps that have a “no screens” policy. But, at the same time, we wonder if sneaking in an iPad or liking a post on Facebook from a cabin a few steps from the office is really a punishable offense. How can we expect our campers to stop texting, updating, and chatting “cold turkey,” when they submit papers, complete college applications, and talk to their friends online the other eleven months of the year? And how can we, who pride ourselves on building and sustaining community, tell first year staff that they can’t be Facebook friends with kids one year younger than them who – just three days earlier – had been their best friend?

We used to say that we wouldn’t ask our staff or campers to do anything we wouldn’t do or haven’t done for ourselves. We are always happy to jump in to run a program, stay up late, wash dishes, or plunge a toilet. But ask us to give up our internet and we’re not sure we can agree. How could we know what’s going on in our world? How could we stay in touch with our families? How could we write blog posts like this? Hmmm – this has us stumped. Maybe we should check Google for some advice….

Posted on July 11, 2013

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The Summer of Living Jewishly

This summer my plan is to start writing a book with the working title God Laughs: How Judaism Ruined My Life. I recently received a grant to proceed with the project, but the idea is still a little vague as is my plan for its eventual execution. I like the title though – taken from the famous Yiddish proverb, “Man plans and God laughs” – and I especially like the subtitle, though I can see it getting me into trouble down the road. Also, in thinking about what to write, I keep coming back to a recurring theme in my life or, as I prefer to call it, a running gag – my ambivalence about being Jewish.

joelA quality, incidentally, I do not share with my 14-year-old son, Jonah. This probably shouldn’t be surprising. Jonah has autism and ambivalence is not really something he’s wired for. He lives in a predominantly black-and-white world and is inclined to take things literally. And while, lately, he’s become more interested in complicated, existential issues like what happens to us after we die and why does time only move forward, I couldn’t even guess if he believes in God in the conventional sense. Then again, I doubt he’s plagued by doubts about how Jewish he is or feels. He’s Jewish, mainly because his mother and I told him so. A reason, let’s face it, that has been good enough for countless generations of Jews before both of us.

Still, I’ve never seen Jonah quite so focused as when he’s following along with the reading from the Haggadah at family Seders. Or, last year, when he just about flawlessly delivered the long, difficult Hebrew passages in his bar mitzvah portion. Jonah has also participated in the Friendship Circle since he was a kid. Friendship Circle is a branch of the Chabad movement, with chapters across North America as well as in countries like Australia, France, England, South Africa and Israel. Its mission is to provide friendship and foster acceptance for kids with special needs by matching them up with volunteer teenagers. (It also fosters much-needed respite for the parents of kids with special needs.) Jonah is right at home whenever he shows up at the Friendship Circle for an event or a simple get-together. In June, he participated in the Montreal chapter’s annual and rather extravagant fundraiser. It was a talent show this year and Jonah was one of the featured acts. He was a hit singing and playing “Hey Jude” on his guitar. I’m guessing the Friendship Circle organizers aren’t big Beatles fans but I hope they noticed that the lyrics he sang perfectly summed up what their organization is so open-heartedly dedicated to doing. Simply put, to “take a sad song and make it better.”

The B’nai Brith sleep-away camp Jonah attended last year and will go to again this year is obliged to have a more ecumenical approach than the Friendship Circle as it has to cater to a wide spectrum of Jewish beliefs. It’s not specifically orthodox or reform or conservative. This is one of the issues that can be tricky to deal with, the camp director Josh Pepin admitted to me recently. He and his staff will have to weigh how much religious instruction is too much; and how much is too little. Whatever they decide on I suspect Jonah will greet it with his unique brand of matter-of-fact spirituality, one I often find myself envying. He will enthusiastically participate in Friday Shabbat dinners and Saturday morning services. When the Israeli flag is raised he will sing the Hatikvah loud as he can. He will spend his summer living Jewishly. “Jewish identity is paramount at our camp,” Pepin told me. “Our job is to create Jews.” With Jonah, they already have one. With me too, for that matter, though I’ll spend this summer – as I’ve spent most of my life – wondering what being a Jew means to me. I’ll also probably have to figure out a way to explain my book’s subtitle to whoever I end up telling about my book. I’ll have to point out that when I say Judaism ruined my life, I’m just joking. Well, half-joking anyway.

Posted on July 1, 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

Evacuation

This month, my husband and co-director, Gilad, and I are grateful for our wonderful camp kehillah (community) and for life and health. Two weeks ago, the Black Forest Fire in Colorado necessitated that we evacuate the JCC Ranch Camp just 3.5 days into our first session of the camp season. I’m happy to report that not only did all of our 140 campers and 80+ staff make it off site without incident, so did our 37 horses, 5 chickens, 3 cats, 2 goats, 8 dogs, and 2 cows.

miriamFaced with this urgent situation and subsequent logistical challenge as we were, Gilad and I had a unique opportunity to assess what really matters to us in our life together. I can tell you without a doubt that what we concluded is that what really matters are the people and animals that we share our life with and not our material possessions. For the past six years, we have chosen to live at Ranch Camp year-round; camp is literally our home. When faced with losing everything we own in the Black Forest Fire, I can honestly say that when I had a few moments to decide what to take with us upon evacuation, it did not take me long because I knew in my heart what was really important to me – and it was not much. I am happy to have gone through this experience because it afforded me a rare opportunity for self-reflection and renewed perspective, which has been both extremely gratifying and refreshing.

I’m grateful to report that not only did our camp site remain safe and untouched by the fires, but we were able to welcome campers back to camp the morning of June 17th to resume our camp session! We feel so blessed to be a part of a wonderful and supportive camp community and appreciate the outpouring of love and good wishes since our evacuation. I hope that we will not have to go through this again but I feel quite confident now that whatever might befall us in the future, we will come through it successfully and be stronger for it.

Posted on June 27, 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 “Nervited” Camp Director

T-minus three days until my camp staff arrive.  Ten days until our teens arrive. Nine months ago I was shrugging in confusion that the summer was over and I had no idea where it went. Now, I’m in complete “denial” that it’s all happening again … or so I thought.

mollyLet me explain. I have previously shared about the 10 months in between the end of a camp season and the start of a new one. Much of what I shared was about the fullness you feel by the amount of work there is to be done. And the satisfaction you feel when it is all over and the message is of success. But now, here I am only days away from my favorite time in my year, more so in my career cycle, and I’m floating in what feels like a state of complete and utter denial.

What is it that I’m in denial of? This is the interesting part. Every day for the past 2 weeks colleagues and friends have asked, “How are you feeling?” “When does camp start?” “Are you ready?” Many of these questions evoke mild feelings of anxiety but more so the response, “I’m good, just in a state of denial.”

Is it really denial? I had to do myself a favor and look up the proper (Wikipedia) definition of denial, because all I kept hearing in my head was… “Whoever denied it supplied it” (thank you, camp, for that one!). Anyway, when I looked up the word “deny” and saw its actual definition; asserting that a statement or allegation is not true, this did not help to clarify the feelings I have been facing. The definition continued; a psychological defense mechanism postulated by Sigmund Freud, in which a person is faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to accept and rejects it instead. This definition is a bit more relatable but not quite. Then I thought about a word my college girls and I used to toss around when describing the end of our Lehigh days and the start of our “real lives.” NERVITED- the feeling of being nervous and excited.

It was as if the fog cleared for me. I’m not in denial about the culmination of a years worth of work coming to its climax, I’m nervited about it. I’m not feeling like I want to reject all the staff and teens that are headed my way in a couple of days; I’m nervited about how they will receive each other, our camp program and me. I’m not too uncomfortable leaving the regularity of my day to day New York City life behind; I’m nervited about the changes this will bring. I am nervous about the unknown. I am excited by the unknown. I am crystal clear that I am not one to deny… but always one to take the challenge head on.

This feeling of nervited-ness is a common one.  It’s one I talk to parents, families, teens and staff about regularly. It’s a changing feeling that flutters through your belly and radiates through your face. To all who prepare to embark on new experiences, engage in new relationships and try something out of the ordinary, the best advice I can give you is don’t deny the nervousness and excitement of it all, embrace it. To be nervited gives you a whole lot to look forward to! Summer of 2013, I’m ready for you … now get here.

Posted on June 21, 2013

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