The Canteen is a tribute to all things Jewish sleepaway camp. Hosted by the Foundation for Jewish Camp (FJC), this blog is written by campers, alumni, parents, and camp professionals and is a place to talk about parenting, camp fun, projects, crafts, recipes, and more – all tied back to Jewish holidays, traditions and, of course, camp!
As part of our summer blog series on 21st Century Skills, we are featuring personal stories from camp alumni and professionals across the field exemplifying how Jewish camp provided the ideal environment to become the best version of themselves.
As someone who has been attending the same camp every summer for my entire life, I constantly looked up to the staff at camp. Growing up at Eisner, there was a constant theme of leadership and what it meant to be a Jewish leader. This theme was clear as a camper, a CIT and a staff member, but never more clear than this summer as a member of the Leadership Team. The title change from Senior Staff to Leadership Team seemed unimportant to me at first glance, but I have come to realize that it is reflective of what camp always taught me.
The camp community is a close-knit family that leans strongly on one another. This support system is most important when taking on a leadership role in camp. Being in leadership is being a member of a team and always knowing that there are people to support you in whatever you are doing. This leadership growth and support is clear in our Maccabiah, or Color War. Throughout the summer, the oldest campers spend time devoted to leadership training, which culminates in their leadership of Maccabiah for all of camp. In their role modeling, the oldest campers learn the greater impact they have on the entire camp community. Being the leaders of all of camp for the three days of Maccabiah gives these campers an opportunity to practice the leadership skills they have been developing throughout the summer.
As a camper, many kids look up to these campers and strive to be like them one day. For some young campers, it is their buddies that they are paired up with in the oldest unit who they look up to. For me, I looked up to, and continue to be inspired by, my brother and sister as they took on various leadership roles throughout camp. The pride that I felt for being their sibling, and the hope that I had for one day being like them, is a big part of why I am still at camp today. Although my brother and sister each held very different jobs during their time at camp—my brother focusing on the logistics of camp and my sister focusing on Jewish education, these differences showed me the power and importance of various leadership positions within a shared space.
For me, camp is the place where I learned how to be a communal leader both as a leader in the community and as a member of a community of leaders. By being in a community of leaders, no one is ever leading from the front; everyone leads from within. This enables everyone to take on a leadership role regardless of what their title is in the community. The leaders in every corner of camp offer promise for the future Jewish leaders of camp as the younger members of the community look towards them and towards a future where they can one day be like them.
How did Jewish camp impact your personal growth? Tell us your story in the comments, on Facebook or tweet @JewishCamp using the hashtag #JCampSkills.