I have been fortunate to be on faculty for something called The Cornerstone Fellowship for the Foundation for Jewish Camp.  And one of my favorite moments at Cornerstone is the first meal when everyone is gathered in the dining hall, finishing up their dinner, and a staff member gets up to make announcements.  There is a phenomenon at Jewish summer camps to create a ritual around the announcements at meals and each camp has their own unique way of marking the moment.

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Some camps repeat everything said by the person making announcements.  Some camps bang on the tables.  Some camps do all their announcements in Hebrew.  Some camps start with birthday announcements that include a room full of people cheering and singing until said birthday-kid ‘skips around the room.’  My favorite, though, is the camps that, upon hearing the word “announcements” bust out into a quite annoying chant about announcements being akin to an unfortunate form of death.

It is that cheer, and that moment, that I look forward to at the end of the first meal of Cornerstone every year.  Why?  Because we always put a first time staff member in charge of making announcements at the end of the first meal.  Whereas us veterans know how to handle the crowd (and avoid saying the dreaded ‘announcements,’ opting for other less lampoonable synonyms), the new person invariably makes the big mistake, launching the room into a good 45 seconds of uncontrollable mayhem.  Rookies.

But truly, hazing is not the real reason I love that moment.  I love that moment because of all the wonderful things that come from spending a summer at camp, I think one of most important is the instilling of self-confidence.  Would a random eight year old kid, in a room with 300 other kids, most of whom are older strangers, stand up on a table and shout silly songs about announcements at the top of her lungs without inhibition?  Only at camp.  Would a twenty year old jaded college student, majoring in mechanical engineering at an Ivy League school, eating lunch at a conference in a room with 300 other 20 year olds, most of whom are strangers, stand up on a table and shout silly songs about announcements at the top of his lungs without inhibition?  Only at camp.  And Cornerstone.

Returning counselors are the “cornerstones” of their camp.  Each spring, these staff members from Jewish camps varying in denomination come together from all over North America for a several days of professional development consisting of learning not only from the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s seasoned faculty, but also from each other.  Fellows share “magic” and ideas between camps, creating a new type of camp community.  Over the last 10 years, nearly 1,600 fellows have participated in the transformative experience of The Cornerstone Fellowship.  This year’s program will take place May 19-23, 2013 at Capital Camps in Waynesboro, PA. 

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